Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Doncaster doctor shortage hits Church View surgery

Church View surgery
Image caption Doncaster's Church View practice has about 4,300 patients.

A doctor's surgery is in a "desperate" position after its only permanent doctor went on sick leave with stress.

Doctors must be recruited to the Doncaster surgery, in a "last-ditch attempt" to keep it open, said Dr Dean Eggitt, who works there temporarily.

The Church View practice has 4,300 patients but only one permanent GP, Dr Shahzad Arif, who is off work, and said the situation was "unworkable".

It has been advertising posts for doctors since 2013 without success.

Dr Arif said: "To have one GP clinically responsible for every one of those patients is scary.

"I was bringing work home, I was working in the small hours of the night, on weekends. I wasn't getting on top of my workload."

Image caption "I was bringing work home, I was working in the small hours of the night, on weekends", said Dr Shahzad Arif

Karen Curran, of NHS England, said the organisation had discussed contingency plans and was "doing what it can" to support the practice.

The staff were "doing a very difficult job" managing the practice and ensuring GP cover while Dr Arif recovers.

He is due to return to work later this month.

Analysis: Jamie Coulson, Look North Health Correspondent

The recruitment problems being faced by Dr Arif at the Church View practice are extreme but by no means unique.

Figures from Health Education England show that in 2014 a quarter (25.3%) of training posts at GP Practices in Yorkshire and the Humber were unfilled, while nationally the British Medical Association claim a third (34%) of GPs are considering retirement.

Doctors in Doncaster say they struggle to recruit from a limited pool of GPs who may be tempted to work overseas, or in parts of the country perceived as more attractive.

Ultimately, doctors say the short term difficulty, is finding a way of attracting enough of the available GPs to places like Doncaster, in what has become a sellers' market.

Dr Eggitt, secretary of Doncaster Local Medical Committee, is working at the practice alongside other locum doctors said the situation was "desperate".

"The team are doing an incredible job to keep the place alive," he said.

Church View was among three surgeries in Doncaster struggling to recruit doctors, he added.

It had seen two doctors retire.

Dr Eggit said the practice had also been warned over breaching its contract when it did not have a doctor on site during opening hours.

NHS England confirmed Church View Surgery had been in breach of contract once since April 2015.

Image caption Dr Eggitt said Doncaster was struggling to recruit doctors

Figures produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in February showed some areas of the country would need at least a 50% increase in the number of GPs in the community over the next five years, because of a growing population and existing shortages of family doctors.

The RCGP said local surgeries dealt with 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS or 370 million patients per year.

There was a severe shortage of GPs, with large numbers of family doctors set to retire and not enough medical students going into general practice, it added.

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