A single GP looks after 11,000 patients at one practice, NHS figures reveal

A single GP looks after 11,000 patients at one practice, NHS figures reveal amid chronic national shortage of family doctors

  • One GP is responsible for up to 11,000 patients at practice in Maidstone, Kent 
  • Surgery in Walsall, West Midlands, has no permanent GPs and run by 3 locums
  • Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25

A single GP is responsible for up to 11,000 patients amid the chronic national shortage of family doctors, NHS figures reveal.

The practice in Maidstone, Kent, has repeatedly applied for closure due to ‘significant staff absences’.

A second surgery in Walsall in the West Midlands has no permanent GPs and is being run by three locums.

A single GP is responsible for up to 11,000 patients at the practice in Maidstone, Kent, which has repeatedly applied for closure due to ‘significant staff absences’

The alarming figures, obtained by The Times, also reveal that the number of fully qualified full-time family doctors has plummeted by 6 per cent in four years.

Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25

Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25

There are now just 26,958 full-time qualified GPs, a drop from 28,631 in 2015. This fall of nearly 1,700 has come despite a pledge by then prime minister David Cameron five years ago for an extra 5,000 GPs.

The statistics from NHS Digital show the average practice has 1,721 patients per doctor compared to 1,653 four years ago.

But approximately 2 per cent of practices have more than 6,000 patients per GP, three times above the ‘safe’ level.

Families in the worst-hit surgeries complain they have to wait up to nine weeks for an appointment, according to The Times. The research also shows that registrars, who are qualified doctors still training to specialise as GPs, take 18.8 per cent of appointments, compared to 14.6 per cent in 2015.

Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25.

But experts have warned this is a hugely ambitious pledge considering how quickly the numbers are falling. Many older GPs are taking early retirement to avoid hefty tax bills on their pensions.

Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25. But experts have warned this is a hugely ambitious pledge considering how quickly the numbers are falling (file image)

Boris Johnson has promised to hire an extra 6,000 family doctors by 2024/25. But experts have warned this is a hugely ambitious pledge considering how quickly the numbers are falling (file image) 

Others are simply fed up with their workloads.

Younger doctors meanwhile are switching to ‘portfolio careers’ where they combine surgery hours with private work, managerial roles or research.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the Government’s recruitment pledge needs to be delivered urgently. He added: ‘It is not right or safe that some GPs are responsible for looking after so many patients.’

Anita Charlesworth, of the Health Foundation think-tank, said: ‘While it is positive that the Government has acknowledged the importance of reversing this decline, it is hard to see how this can be delivered in the timescales set out.’

Dutch researchers have previously found patient care steadily declines as the size of the surgery list increases. The study by Radboud University in Nijmegen concluded quality of care declined for every extra patient over a threshold of 2,000 patients per GP.

Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s national medical director for primary care, said: ‘Record numbers of people are training to be GPs with thousands more set to follow as an extra £4.5billion is invested annually in primary and community care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.’