The Board considered a report by the Scrutiny Support Officer which presented the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Health Scrutiny Panel, following its investigation into the topic: Future of GP Services in Middlesbrough.
The Chair of the Health Scrutiny Panel advised the Board that the number of GPs in the town could become a real issue in a few years if action was not taken.
He added that a number of GPs were reaching retirement age and many not of retirement age wanted to change career and, of the 150 places available in the Medical School at the University of Newcastle for Middlesbrough GP training placements, less than one third of places had been taken.
He suggested that the recommendation in the Report "That the various health organisations consider how they can encourage doctors to enter General Practice and to remain in practice into their late 50s/early 60s, through different means" be deleted and that a new recommendation be added: That the Department of Health be asked about the impact of the decreasing number of GPs.
Members commented as follows:-
- The entry requirements could be too high and should not focus unduly on academic ability.
- If people from a medical background wanted to retrain to become a GP they should receive exemptions from some examinations and when GPs who have been away from practice return, their re-training should be capable of being undertaken whilst they were at work as there would surely be aspects of the GP role that they could continue to do - rather than having to wait to be fully re-trained before practising again.
ORDERED that the report be approved and the following recommendations be made to the Executive:-
a) That the Panel revisit this topic at appropriate times to consider how the various initiatives that are being put in place are making a difference.
b) That the Council, the South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Local Medical Committee work together to promote the areas attributes in order to encourage doctors to come and live and work in the area. This might include articles in Medical Journals and making reference to the relatively affordable cost of housing, the public health challenges in the area and the state of the art facilities at James Cook University Hospital.
c) That the Council consider ways in which they can encourage student doctors to study in this area, for example creating a scholarship which would see the student committing to stay in the area following their studies.
d) Building on the success of the A&E campaign, the Panel would like to see the CCG develop a publicity campaign involving information about the most appropriate times to visit a GP and details of other sources of help including pharmacists and self-help.
e) That the Council write to the Department of Health, with their concerns about the numbers of GPs in Middlesbrough in the future, and the impact that this may have, and ask them to comment on what they intend to do to facilitate a GPs (especially women GPs, who may have taken a career break) return to practice easier.
f) That the Department of Health be asked to consider whether the entry requirements are too high and, in terms of making GPs return to practice easier, that consideration should be given to re-training being undertaken "on the job".