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Kent health bosses reveal county NHS’s recruitment troubles

PUBLISHED: 15:26 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:26 26 July 2018

Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Health officials claim Kent and Medway “can’t compete” with rest of NHS for attracting staff unless there are huge changes in service.

The programme director for the Kent and Medway Sustainability Transformation Partnership (STP), Michael Ridgwell, told councillors how the county is struggle to hire staff.

To “modernise” the healthcare system in the county, the STP is introducing large general practices named hubs, which will include increased opening hours and some urgent care facilities from emergency departments.

A £6.5m extension is set to be built at Bethesda Medical Centre in Cliftonville, Margate, which would include a training centre, gym for physio, outside exercise area and an allotment.

There are also plans in Dartford to consolidate six GP surgeries into one town centre building to create a “more holistic” seven-day service.

At Kent County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Friday (July 20), Mr Ridgwell said these new service models will “make the county a great place to work”.

He said: “If you look at workforce across the NHS as a whole it is struggling as we haven’t got the number of staff we need but Kent and Medway is struggling to compete with other areas in the workforce market.

“The way you can actually recruit the skilled workforce we need is to have modern services delivered out of modern facilities.

“We have a workforce tourism into London from Kent and Medway where we lose workforce to the capital.

“We need to be transforming our services so we can compete in that workforce environment.

“Kent and Medway is a great place to work. We live here, we love the county so we need to be promoting it as a great place to work.”

He used the example of multispecialty community provider Encompass in Whitstable which has a waiting list of people who want to work for them.

Encompass brings all the practices across Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group together to provide a new model focussing on “delivering higher quality, outcome-focused, person-centred, coordinated care”.

However Cllr Dan Daley (Lib Dem) is not convinced after two GPs in Allington left the profession citing long hours and failed expansion plans.

Cllr Daley said: “I don’t know if the doctors will put up with this quite frankly.

“I find it very hard to believe that they will want to actually join up in this.

“It seems to me that the sizes are becoming so big that it is almost unmanageable.”

Yet the chair of the meeting Cllr Sue Chandler said she has met GPs “on the ground” who are very positive about these plans.

Rebecca Bradd, STP workforce programme lead said the CCGs are working together on many initiatives to recruit doctors.

She said: “Our primary care workforce plan suggests a potential gap in the GP workforce equivalent to 171.4 full time GPs by September 2020.

“In order to close this gap we have a number of initiatives in place.

“As well as recruiting 130 new GPs through the international recruitment scheme and training 80 new GPs locally, we are also encouraging GPs who may be considering leaving general practice or retiring early to continue by offering them specialist training opportunities.

“A regional retention bid was submitted in June 2018 to fund targeted strategies.”

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