New funding of £400,000 has been received from NHS England to help support GPs and their practices on the Island improve their ability to deliver the best possible care for their patients.
The funding, which is part of a £3m programme of work by NHS England across seven sites in the UK is part of the GP Retention Intensive Site Support (GPRISS) scheme and is designed to help areas, like the Isle of Wight, that have particularly struggled to recruit and retain GPs.
On the Island, there are a total of 16 GP practices and 77 GPs. However, with some doctors nearing retirement age, the prospect of increasing vacancies and the difficulties in filling these has been a concern that practices on the Island were keen to proactively tackle so they can deliver the support required.
Dower House surgery in Newport and Sandown Medical Centre have both encountered problems in 2018 due to issues with hiring GPs.
Tracy Savage, Deputy Director of Quality and Head of Medicines Optimisation for NHS Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In common with other areas, the Island faces real challenges with both the recruitment and retention of GPs at a time of unprecedented demand for their services.
“We really welcome this £400,000 funding, and in discussion with our GP practices, we have developed an action plan which will enable us to use this extra money effectively and target the support where it is needed the most, so we can meet the needs of Island patients.”
Dr Margarita Kitova-John, GP and chair of One Wight Health, the Island’s GP federation said: “Our Island GPs are working around the clock to try and ensure that we can deliver the best possible care for Island patients.
“However this is not sustainable, and we need to make some significant changes to the way we work if we are to retain our GPs and continue to provide the level of care needed by our local population.
“This funding will help us on our journey to do that, enabling us to give additional support to GPs, to help improve their work/life balance, but to also provide support to practices so they can recruit to vacant GP posts and other primary care roles, improve patient signposting, develop better collaboration between practices and make the best use of resources.
“But we also need our community’s help to use GP services appropriately and to recognise that many common ailments can be treated by keeping over the counter medicines such as pain relief tablets at home or seeking the support of local pharmacists. If we can work together, we will be able to ensure GP services continue to be there for those who really need them.”
The initiatives supported by the funding include:
- Careers – creating opportunities for GPs to develop fulfilling careers, through work and training.
- Education and mentoring – providing educational coaching, mentoring, support and networking opportunities for GPs.
- Shorter working days – helping practices who want to work collaboratively to provide cover/support to help reduce a GP’s working day, while still maintaining a service for patients.
- A workforce hub – making it easier to access and recruit permanent and temporary cover for GPs and other primary care professionals; as well as establishing a website to help recruit more GPs.
- Support to manage workload – signposting patients to the correct service and providing access to other roles such as mental health practitioners, pharmacists to work in GP practices to help support those patients who do not need to see a GP, thereby reducing workload.
The funding must be used by the end of March 2019 when the work undertaken will be independently evaluated.