Dr Hainsworth is engaging with patients of the Bildeston Health Centre at public meetings. The news that Dr Beale was leaving has forced the practice to consider all aspects of the way in which it cares for all its patients. Until now patients at Bildeston Health Centre have been relatively fortunate as Drs Hainsworth, Clarke and Beale, have worked hard to maintain a level of service higher than many other practices across the country. The Covid pandemic forced certain changes, introducing phone triage, priority appointments and a reduced number in the waiting room. But Bildeston Health Centre, unlike many others, kept significant face to face appointments with doctors, the Advanced Nurse Practitioner, the Practice Nurse team and the Healthcare Assistant team, brilliantly supported by the Management Team. We also have the wonderful team working the dispensary with a newly appointed Pharmacist.
Dr Beale’s decision to go to Australia (where statistically 16 UK doctors a day are going!) has put the issues and challenges facing all GPs front and centre here, prompting the decision by Dr Hainsworth to share with us the need to have a rethink about the way in which the practice needs to be run for the future. It has already advertised for Dr Beal’s replacement but the fact is qualified GP Doctors are hard to come by. Dr Hainsworth spoke with clarity and passion, describing the current situation. GP practices across the country are experiencing significant strain with rising demand set against declining numbers of GP doctors. The overall number of GPs has not grown much since 2015. In February 2020, the Government announced a drive to recruit an additional 6,000 GPs by 2024. Despite the promise, as of April 2022 (BMA latest data) there is now the equivalent of 1,622 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs compared to 2015. Between March 2021 and April 2022, the NHS lost 379 GP partners and 364 salaried and locum GPs. The number of fully qualified GPs actually decreased by 743 net in just under a year. Despite there being 1,622 fewer GPs today than there were in 2015, each practice has on average 2,026 more patients than in 2015. For GPs this means increasing numbers of patients to take care of. The average number of
patients each GP is responsible for has increased by around 300 since 2015. In this part of Suffolk one GP is caring for around 2000 patients. Bildeston practice alone has increased by 20%.
The practice has no choice but to consider other ways of working to meet the growing demand with fewer doctors. Dr Hainsworth was clear on key points: Bildeston Health Centre will not close; they will appoint replacement doctor/s; Care Navigators will ensure patients receive the best care in the most efficient way; telephone and on-line appointment system will operate by the end of July. We need, therefore, to do what we can, as patients, to work with and support the changes felt necessary, trust in the professionalism of the staff and do our bit to
care for the doctors and health centre staff who care for us.