In recent years UK hospitals have been dogged by numerous allegations of negligence and incompetences that have led to the suffering and, in some cases, death of patients. Many have argued that the number of doctors should be increased, as the current ratio stands at about 2.71 doctors per 1000 people, which is one of the worst rankings in Europe. By comparison, the EU average is about 3.4 doctors per 1000. Senior doctors and experts say that the worst hit areas in the UK’s National Health Service are GP Practices and Accident and Emergency departments. This shortage of doctors could of course have serious implications for patients, particularly in A&E departments where a number of those patients require very urgent treatment.
Dr Cliff Mann, the president of the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents A&E doctors, recently gave a statement highlighting that issue in A&E departments have been further aggravated by the shortage of doctors, consequently causing the existing ones have to work harder to meet the growing demand for medical attention. “When you have shortages of doctors in some areas it means longer waits… In A&E that’s not really an option, so it means doctors work harder and harder; it means there is a greater chance of mistakes, and ultimately it means risks to lives.”
This problem was also echoed by data acquired from the House of Commons Library, which indicates that there has been an exponential increase in the demand for GP services, but unfortunately, their number has dropped by about 356 in comparison to the 2009/10 figure. Moreover, the proportion of people being served by family doctors has also decreased from 70 per 100,000 individuals to around 66.5 today.
Concerns about the current GP recruitment trend have also been raised. According to the BMJ Careers site, areas such as the East Midlands only filled 62% of it’s quota of places for trainee GP’s. This situation will only cause an exacerbation of the current conditions, not to mention that expenditure cuts and a continued increase in demand for the services. Critics also urged the government to stop the flight of UK trained general practitioners to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
To tackle the shortage in GP’s, the Department of Health stated that it had cut the number of patients that each GP has to attend to, and is working to boost trainee figures, so that there would be more practitioners in the future. However, the effectiveness of this system remains to be seen, and by the time the ‘new’ GP’s have been trained, it could be too little too late.