Patients in the west face longer waits to see the doctor amid a looming recruitment crisis in the health service. One practice in Somerset says it's had no applicants for a GP position despite spending thousands of pounds on advertising. The problem is being made worse as more newly-qualified doctors decide they want to work abroad.
Dr Huw Thomas is one of four partners at Minehead's two GP practices. Irnham Lodge, looks after 6,800 people. The area has what he calls good patients, people who want to help themselves and who are respectful to doctors. So he was surprised when their £3,000 advertising campaign for a new partner drew a blank.
Recently three practices in West Somerset found themselves all chasing one doctor. The Government has promised to recruit up to 5,000 extra doctors plus 5,000 extra practice staff by 2020 but GPs are retiring, going part time or leaving the country, 822 GPs applied to work abroad last year up nearly 50% on 2008 when records began.
The doctors in Minehead also provides medical care at the Community hospital.
But research shows many junior doctors see better opportunities abroad, or in big hospitals. GPs are under more time pressure, partners have more financial liabilities and now GPs are expected to be on call overnight with more calls.
Despite that he insists it's a great career:
For all of Minehead's attractions it has extra problems because it's not close to the M5 corridor. GPs and their families often don't want to leave their old lives behind.
Doctors say the government should understand the reasons behind the recruitment crisis and come up with a credible cure.