GP surgeries in Weston-super-Mare forced to fork out £1k a day for temporary staff

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 October 2016

Locking castle Medical centre.

Locking castle Medical centre.

Archant

The lack of primary care services in Weston has been described as a 'scandal' and has prompted the town's MP, councillors and doctors to team up to try to combat the issue.

Weston has become a ‘local example of a national issue’ as it struggles to keep services afloat due to a lack of GPs and expensive agency staff being a necessity to meet demand.

It has been suggested Stafford Place surgery should close due to a lack of funds and bosses at Stafford Medical Group – which runs both Stafford Place and Locking Castle Medical Centre – are exploring the prospect of operating only at Locking Castle.

But Dr Michael Leonard, who works as a GP at the Locking Castle practice, says he is concerned about the expensive locum doctors he is forced to rely on to cover shifts – which he said have cost the practice up to £1,000 for a day’s work.

He said: “Locums do not have a continuity of care. They do not see patients through and they do not provide the answer for us.

“Maybe what we could do is introduce a contract which means you have to stay a certain amount of time. We are not just fed up with locums’ care; they are also costing us a fortune.”

Weston MP John Penrose addressed concerned patients and doctors at Locking Castle Medical Centre and said: “We are a local example of a national issue.

“One of the things we have to do is recruit a heck of a lot more doctors. We have started recruiting more but it is still a while away before we see a difference. We have made a start but it is not enough.”

The cost of locums also concerned Mr Penrose who added: “We could do without GPs being hacked off like junior doctors so we have to be careful. But it has to change.”

Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale told the Mercury: “The lack of GP services in Weston is nothing less than a scandal. NHS England need to act and act now.

“Frankly we need more GPs and better health and support services and NHS England must act immediately to address this crisis. You cannot put a price on good health and I intend to pursue this with them until action is taken.”

Marina Muirhead, head of primary care for NHS England South West said: “We received notice from the practice that they were considering closing Stafford Place Surgery.

“As commissioners of primary care, NHS England would need to approve such an application with careful consideration of the impact to patients. Some practices face challenges in recruiting and retaining GPs, resulting in an unsustainable future for some.

“We acknowledge recruiting GPs is a challenge for Weston, as well as across the South West. To make general practice more sustainable, we need to think outside the box. We are already working in ways to solve workforce pressures in primary care.”

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