Shortage of GPs in Hastings

I consider it my duty to respond to Amber Rudd’s comments regarding NHS provision in her column in the Observer (November 28).

The issue which most concerns patients is not quality of care but how long they have to wait for an appointment with their doctor.

Hastings has a very serious shortage of salaried GPs. Given the level of deprivation in areas such as Baird ward and the fact that Hastings suffers the greatest inequality in every aspect of health compared to the rest of the county we need considerably more GPs than the national average if such disparity is to be reduced.

On September 11 this year I attended the AGM of Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Shortage of GPs was a major concern for all of the doctors and practice managers. One GP who sits on its board complained bitterly about the long hours he was having to work to cope with patient demand.

Lack of resources has resulted in some practices having to recruit locums at a cost of £900 to £1,000 per day. Many GPs are nearing retirement and the problem will escalate. Moreover, as patients experience difficulty obtaining timely treatment in the primary care sector it will result in more people attending AE and placing yet more pressure on hard-pressed hospital resources.

Amber Rudd is correct in stating that Hastings and Rother CCG has invested £5 million to try and reduce ill health problems resulting from smoking and obesity but she omitted to mention that H&R CCG provided £3.6 million to Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG to assist it because it had overspent its budget.

Eastbourne has much better primary care facilities than Hastings. This money could have been invested in our town and working for the wellbeing of our residents.

The link between poverty and ill health is well-documented. While Amber Rudd makes this observation in her discussion, she fails to mention that increasing numbers of people in our town are having to rely on soup kitchens and other forms of charitable help to feed themselves and their families as a result of austerity measures being disproportionally targeted at the most disadvantaged. This will inevitably result in ever increasing numbers of deprived residents suffering ill health and premature death.

I regret to say that Amber Rudd’s optimism that our ‘local health service will go from strength to strength’ is belied by what is really happening in our under-resourced and struggling health service both locally and nationally. It will not be the NHS which goes from ‘strength to strength’ but rather the fortunes of the private companies that obtain lucrative contracts under privatisation of the NHS.

Councillor Mike Turner

Baird Ward

Hastings Borough Council