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  1. ITV Report

Plymouth GP had a 'lack of support'

Plymouth is currently short of GPs with cover being provided on a temporary basis for more than 30,000 patients. Photo: ITV News

A Plymouth doctor who gave up being a partner in a practice because of the stress of the job has told ITV News she fears for the future of GP surgeries in the city.

Plymouth is currently short of GPs with cover being provided on a temporary basis for more than 30,000 patients.

Dr Charlotte Ferriday says the whole system across the city is in meltdown.

Dr Ferriday was devastated when she had to give up being a partner in a practice. Credit: ITV News

She was devastated when she had to give up being a partner in a practice.

The stress of not only looking after an ever increasing waiting list of patients but also managing the practice with an ever decreasing budget and support took its toll. She was off sick for eight months.

It was of huge sadness to me that I stopped being a partner.I felt like I had let everyone down and it took me a long time to build myself up again.

It was the pressure of work and the lack of support that we got.

– Dr Charlotte Ferriday

It is this additional stress that Dr Ferriday believes could lead to the collapse of GP practice in Plymouth.

Increasingly over the last few years, with various cutbacks we have had less support. GP surgeries have found it very difficult to recruit new partners.

– Dr Charlotte Ferriday

Since 2016 a number of doctors have handed back their contracts to run surgeries.

This has led to a number closing down and others being run temporarily by an offshoot of the out-of-hours doctors service Devon Docs.

Ocean Health ran a number of surgeries in Plymouth. Credit: ITV News

The largest of the practices to had back its contract was Ocean Health, which ran a surgery at Sterling Road and two others at Chard Road and Collings Park.

They covered 22,000 patients in Plymouth. All of these patients and some 12,000 more are currently being looked after on a temporary basis - and as yet NHS England has not been able to secure anyone to permanently take them on.

Other doctors practices that closed transferred their patients on to other surgeries.

Pat Robinson was on the Patient Participation group at Hyde Park Surgery.

She said there was a lot of anger when patients found out their surgery was to close and she's concerned that the doctors that took those patients on don't have the capacity to do so.

Pat Robinson was angry when she found out that her surgery was about to close. Credit: ITV News

The practice allocated me a doctor and within a month that doctor had left. I don't know who my allocated doctor is at that practice because 2,900 had to find another GP from that one practice that closed.

NHS England are saying that every GP must have an open list. At which point do they become saturated?

– Pat Robinson
Patients watchdog Healthwatch Plymouth said there have been less complaints about surgeries in Plymouth in recent months. Credit: ITV News

Plymouth also has a major recruitment crisis for Doctors. Depending on who you talk to there is a shortfall of between 26 and 35 full time GPs in the city.

Being unable to recruit was the final nail in the coffin for the Ocean Group, which had just four doctors for its 22,000 patients. The numbers just didn't add up.

NHS England's plan for Plymouth is that it creates a super surgery looking after some 34,000 patients. It says that operating at scale will offer new opportunities for surgeries in the city.

Patients watchdog Healthwatch Plymouth said there have been less complaints about surgeries in Plymouth in recent months but it warned against a "one size fits all" surgery profile for the city.

I don't think there is an imminent collapse within the GP structure in the city. There are certainly some challenges over the recruitment of GPs and how those services are delivered in the future.

– Healthwatch Plymouth spokesperson