Americans lend town GPs a helping hand

HEALTH chiefs are planning to train up doctors' assistants after recruiting six from America to cope with recruitment problems in Weston

HEALTH chiefs are planning to train up doctors' assistants after recruiting six from America to cope with recruitment problems in Weston.North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) admits it has had trouble recruiting doctors to work in the area and to tackle the current shortage it has brought in six physician assistants from across the Atlantic who work under the supervision of GPs.The latest figures show there are an average of 2,200 patients per GP in Weston compared to the national average of 1,800.To cope, the PCT has taken on nurse practitioners and physician assistants to see patients with less complex health problems.Chris Borne, chief executive of the PCT, said: "Quite a few parts of the country have had difficulty recruiting GPs and there are all sorts of reasons why."We've created a new role called physician assistants, who are not yet fully qualified doctors but are able to do a lot of work a doctor does, under their supervision."We recruited them from America and we've got six working in several GP practices. They have been working very well and the patients and GPs are very satisfied with them."I would like to see whether we can develop our own training programme for assistants rather than recruiting them from overseas."* A mother from Locking Castle contacted the Mercury last week to say she was unable to get a doctor's appointment for her poorly daughter Megan.Tracey Perry, of Longridge Way, said she has only been able to book a phone consultation for her daughter at Locking Castle Medical Centre.She said: "My daughter has been ill twice in the past few months and I've only been able to get her a telephone consultation. Why are they still building new houses for young families when there are no facilities to cope and the surgery is already packed?"There are currently 1,989 patients per doctor at Locking Castle Medical Centre. A PCT spokesman said: "We are aware that there are proposals to further increase the population in Weston over the next 15-20 years and once we have precise details of where the housing will be, GP provision will be expanded accordingly."The PCT also confirmed that no GP surgeries in Weston have closed their books to patients.

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