Exclusive: Five-fold variation in patients over 65 per full-time GP across England

Some CCGs have five times as many patients over 65 per full-time equivalent GP as their counterparts elsewhere in England, analysis of official workforce data has shown.

Total patient numbers per full-time equivalent GP also vary significantly between CCGs, GPonline analysis of data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has revealed.

North Kirklees CCG has the highest number of patients per full-time equivalent GP, with 2,340, compared with just 1,354 in north London's Camden CCG, which has the lowest number.

But variation between CCGs in the number of patients aged over 65 per full-time equivalent GP far outstrips variation in total patient numbers, ranging from 521 in Fylde and Wyre CCG, in Lancashire, to just 98 in Tower Hamlets CCG in London.

GP-patient ratio

Some CCGs face extreme pressure from having both high numbers of patients overall per full-time equivalent GP and high numbers of elderly patients.

South West Lincolnshire CCG, for example, has the fourth highest overall number of patients per GP at 2,305, and 22% of these patients are aged over 65.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline that practices with far higher numbers of older patients would face considerable additional workload, pointing out that this was the factor most heavily weighted for in the GP funding formula.

'There is significant additional work for patients aged over 65,' he said. 'That is the key driver of the Carr-Hill funding formula – age. The older the population, the greater the workload that will bring. If you don’t have the GPs to call on, it leaves additional burdens for those left picking up the work.

GP workforce

Dr Vautrey added that problems with variation in the spread of the GP workforce across the country had become more acute since the abolition more than a decade ago of the Medical Practices Committee, which was tasked with ensuring equitable access to general practice. In some cases the committee turned down applications for GP vacancies when it felt other areas had greater need for extra doctors.

'There is a big divide between areas of the country, with some that have really struggled to recruit and retain GPs,' he said. 'These figures really expose the problem.'

Because of poor workforce planning and now 'a lack of GPs generally', the NHS had been unable to recruit and retain GPs across the country, Dr Vautrey warned. He added that compared with other European countries, the UK was 'significantly underdoctored'.

Photo: iStock

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