Exclusive: Areas with GP shortages face up to 6% rise in patient numbers

Areas of England facing the most serious GP shortages have been hardest-hit by rising patient lists over the past year, official figures reveal.

Waiting room: patient numbers have risen sharply in some areas (Photo: JH Lancy)
Waiting room: patient numbers have risen sharply in some areas (Photo: JH Lancy)

Official statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that some areas have seen rises of up to 6% in the total number of patients registered with GPs between April 2014 and April 2015.

London areas dominate the list of CCGs most affected by population increases - the 10 CCGs with the biggest increase in patients are all in the capital.

Central London CCG - covering Westminster - topped the list with a 6.2% increase in patients registered with GPs, a rise of 12,287 since last year. Tower Hamlets registered an extra 12,659 patients, up 4.5% from 2014, and Barking and Dagenham saw a 4.1% increase with 8,454 more patients registering.

GP shortage

Recent research by the RCGP showed many of the areas affected by sharp rises in patient numbers are at risk of GP shortages. According to the college, Central London will need a 20% increase in GPs by 2020 to cope with rising demand, while Barking and Dagenham will need 56% more GPs.

City and Hackney LMC chairman Dr Fiona Sanders told GPher own practice list had increased 10% in a year.

'It means demand goes up, so we need more appointments,' she said. But practices are already struggling trying to find and fund new GPs and practice staff as well as premises space, she warned.

The shifting populations, added Dr Sanders, affect practices' referral rates. 'When people register, that's their peak consulting time and your referrals go up as they come in with a list of things they want sorting out,' she explained.

Dr Sanders said the changing population in her area had brought not just increased patient lists, but a change in consultation patterns.

GP consultation demand

Many of the young professionals moving to the area as it undergoes regeneration were consulting more frequently than would have been the case in the past, she said.

'A lot of it is young professionals who in theory don't have a lot of problems, but I've noticed a big change. We get a lot lot of what we call "first world problems", people with lots of stress and anxiety,' she said.

Young people, she said, were consulting with health anxieties fuelled by media messages. But she pointed out that practices received little funding to cope with this because the GP funding formula allocates very little funding for young patients.

Biggest patient increases:

  • Central London, 12,287, 6.2% 
  • Tower Hamlets, 12,659, 4.5%
  • Barking and Dagenham, 8,454, 4.1%
  • Redbridge, 11,257, 3.9% 
  • West London, 8,874, 3.8%
  • City and Hackney, 10,611, 3.7%
  • Hamersmith and Fulham, 7,082, 3.5%
  • Newham, 12,721 3.5%
  • Brent, 11,721, 3.5

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