Estate's struggle to recruit doctors
PUBLISHED: 14:00 15 September 2012
A HEALTH centre on a Weston estate has had difficulty recruiting doctors, forcing it to rely on expensive agency staff for half the year.
The For All Healthy Living Centre in Lonsdale Avenue on the Bournville estate has had trouble finding doctors to work at its health centre.
Two positions, equivalent to 1.2 full-time GPs, have been vacant since May.
The centre has instead relied on using more costly ‘locum’ GPs recruited from an agency, meaning patients have often been seen by various different doctors.
Anne Riney, former chairman of the Bournville Area Residents’ Association, said: “It seems to me that since the old head doctor there retired, you never know who you are going to see.
“You see one today and you come back in a fortnight and see someone totally different who you have never seen before.
“I don’t have any complaints about the service at the centre, except that you never see the same GP twice.”
The centre’s chief executive, Mark Graham, blamed the problem on two factors: a national shortage of GPs and Weston’s location on the coast.
Four full-time GPs are currently on the books, with two having been taken on in the past year.
He said the centre had employed a third-party company to source GPs, but the company uses a geographical ‘radius’ system which pulls in doctors from the surrounding 50-mile circle around an area.
But because Weston is on the coast, half of its radius is in the sea, he said, meaning fewer GPs can be sourced from the surrounding area using its system.
Mr Graham said: “We have had difficulty in recruiting doctors. It is a problem other coastal towns have, but there is also a national shortage.”
The centre also employs other methods, he said, and hopes to fill the empty positions by November.
Mr Graham responded to concerns patients may be unhappy with having to see temporary agency GPs.
He said: “People do find it harder to build a relationship with locum GPs.
“The ones we use are of good quality, and we try to use the same locum GPs time and time again so people get to know them.
“All of a patient’s notes are on the computer. Obviously, it is good to see the same GP, but all the information is displayed on the screen and all doctors have access to it.”
He also admitted the use of locum doctors is more expensive.
He added: “It is more cost effective to employ GPs rather than use agencies.
“We are currently having to manage the budget very carefully. Because we can’t reduce the level of service, we have to take on locum GPs to provide that service. It’s not ideal, but a lot of practices do it.”