The 10 areas of England with the worst shortage of GPs

·4 min read
The Deneway brach of the Warmdene Doctor's Surgery is pictured in Brighton, southern England on February 11, 2020, after it was announce that it had closed for
The Liberal Democrats warn of a 'postcode lottery' crisis when it comes to accessing a GP in England. (Glyn Kirk/ AFP)

Patients in England are facing a “postcode lottery” over accessing a GP, with the worst-affected areas served by one doctor per 3,000 people.

The number of people per GP has risen by 5% to an average of 2,038 since 2015, new data shows. 

Of 113 Clinical Commissioning Group areas in the country, 70 have seen an increase in the number of people per GP since 2015.

The analysis was published on Monday, based on research by the House of Commons Library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.

It shows significant regional disparities in numbers, with almost twice as many patients per GP in worst-hit areas compared to best.

The chart below shows areas in England with highest and lowest numbers of patients per GP.

Research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats reveals significant regional disparities, with almost twice as many patients per GP in worst areas compared to best (NHS digital/Liberal Democrats)
The research reveals significant regional disparities, with almost twice as many patients per GP in worst-hit areas compared with best. (NHS Digital/Liberal Democrats)

The areas with the highest numbers of inhabitants per GP are:

Fylde and Wyre – 2,833

Hull – 2,761

Calderdale – 2,606

Thurrock – 2,592 

Portsmouth – 2,559

North East Lincolnshire – 2,551

Stafford and Surrounds – 2,537

Tameside and Glossop – 2,536

Chorley and South Ribble – 2,510

Kent and Medway – 2,503

The lowest areas include Liverpool, Wirral, Oxfordshire, West Suffolk and East Staffordshire.

The figures do not include trainee GPs, and are based on the population in each area rather than the number of registered patients.

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to address the issue by training more GPs.

Lib Dem candidate Munira Wilson speaks after winning the Twickenham seat at the count at St Mary's University, Twickenham. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Munira Wilson MP, the Liberal Democrats' spokesperson on health, has called on the government to invest more in training GPs. (Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

The party's health spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said: “These figures reveal a postcode lottery of care that is leaving people struggling to get GP appointments or waiting weeks to be seen.

“But instead of fixing the GP shortage crisis, the Conservatives are making it worse by failing to train the new doctors we desperately need.

“Families rely on being able to see a GP when they or their children fall sick to get advice, access treatment and get well again. 

"The government must invest more in our GP practices and train up more doctors, to ensure patients get the fair deal they deserve.”

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Separately, an analysis by The Telegraph of Department of Health data has found that GPs' average working hours fell to three days a week in the two years prior to the COVID pandemic.

In 2019, GPs carried out 6.6 half-day sessions a week, the equivalent of just over three days – the lowest number on record. In 2010, the figure was 7.5 sessions. 

The data also showed a fall in the proportion of time spent on "direct patient care". Just 59% of GPs' time was spent on this in 2019, down from 63.1% in 2010.

Last week the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers called for an end to the “blame game” pitting GPs against patients. 

In an open letter to The Independent, Martin Marshall and Saffron Cordery said: "Government and national NHS leaders need to recognise the strain the NHS is under and help us to explain this to the public. 

"Divisive and distorted claims about GP access simply serve to demoralise the very people who are going above and beyond every day to keep the NHS running safely for patients."

A Department of Health spokesperson said on Monday: “The number of full-time GPs increased between March 2016 and March 2021 and, last year, a record-breaking number of doctors started training as GPs.

“We are grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs throughout the pandemic and have invested £270m to expand GP capacity, on top of £1.5bn until 2023/24.

“We are committed to increasing the number of training places available for GPs to 4,000 a year and creating an extra 50 million appointments annually to improve patient access.”

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