‘Fragile’ GP system needs more help as Thanet struggles with low number of doctors


By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Kent NHS bosses have pledged to offer more support to a “fragile” GP system.

In a virtual meeting last week, the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees the running of 200 GP surgeries, revealed that Swale and Thanet continue to “struggle” with a low number of doctors.

Remote consultations are being delivered by some GPs to provide care in an “efficient” manner for some health conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.

More training is being offered as the size of the workforce has been steadily increasing, with more support provided by local paramedics and pharmacists.

In Thanet and Swale, Kent CCG bosses have engaged in talks with GPs about increasing educational support and advice on how best to use the extra staff.

Dr Suzanna Marsden said there needs to be a “minimum” core of GPs for the system to function. She said: “Sometimes even that feels like it is stretched.”

The Ramsgate GP added: “People are so overworked they do not have the bandwidth to engage in the additional support activities that are put in place.”

It has been suggested that GPs could be “harnessed” from other areas of the UK to provide video consultations for areas that desperately need help.

At the CCG primary committee on Thursday, Dr Simon Dunn, of Heron Medical Practice in Herne Bay, said: “How can we support a system that is a bit fragile?”

The total size of Kent’s GP workforce team has risen from 547 in September 2017 to 645 in September 2020, marking a rise of around 17% in three years. Under this, there has been a major rise in the number of health care assistants, growing from 40 to 255 over the three year period. Their main responsibilities include measuring blood pressure and giving advice.

CCG bosses said they are considering a range of options to help struggling surgeries.

Dr Dunn told the panel of GPs: “If we can get this solved for Thanet, that is going to help West Kent in five years time when they are facing similar problems with a whole group retiring.”