Campaign to recruit GPs in Hartlepool to fill shortage

Drive launched to recruit GPs.
Drive launched to recruit GPs.

A scheme to bolster the number of GPs in the North of England has recruited just two doctors so far, a meeting has heard.

Hartlepool and Stockton has higher a population per GP than the North East average and is facing a GP shortage, with two vacancies and 27 eligible to retire.

Recruitment firm ID Medical has been signed up to help find 100 doctors to plug the gap – with 60 doctors lined up for Teesside and Darlington by 2020.

But so far just two GPs have been recruited over an area covering Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside as well as the North East and the Tees Valley.

Health leaders shared their thoughts on the figure at a meeting of two Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The GP recruitment drive began in May and Sue Greaves, head of strategy at Hartlepool and Stockton (HAST) CCG, told panel members two GP candidates had got through to their “second stage” interviews last month.

Meanwhile, three others were “awaiting results” of English language exams.

But there were questions about whether doctors from overseas would even want to settle in the Tees Valley.

Ms Greaves added: “Will people naturally want to migrate to Newcastle?

“First of all, will they want to come to the North East? Would it be Manchester or London?

“We don’t know the answer to that – but not everyone wants to be in a big city and there will be people who want to come to the North East.”

Surgeries in the Tees Valley are short of doctors – a trend which is mirrored on a national scale. 

Papers for the latest Tees Valley joint health scrutiny committee showed there were two GP vacancies in Hartlepool, three in Stockton, three in Darlington and 11 in South Tees.

Meanwhile, 27 full-time GPs in Hartlepool and Stockton are older than 55 and eligible to retire.

The average number of patents per GP for Hartlepool and Stockton is 1,741, compared to a regional average of 1,414.

Candidates from overseas have mainly come from Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal and Spain so far.

But panel member Hannah Herron said the numbers “seemed quite low”.

“At first look we would be quite disappointed with the numbers – it’s just understanding what the projected numbers are,” she added.

Karen Hawkins, from HAST CCG, said the health bodies wouldn’t be able to attract doctors on their own.

“We need our partners to help and there is a push at local authorities,” she added.

And Ms Greaves told the committee the recruitment company’s prospectus was very “north-centric” with little mention of Darlington or Teesside.

Jean Golightly, head of nursing at HAST, said “getting home quickly” was important during her time as a medical professional overseas.

“We do have Durham Tees Valley Airport – I know Newcastle has an airport but we have one on our doorstep with a link to Schiphol,” she added.

“We are not Stansted but it’s very easy to get to a lot of places.”

When it came to overseas recruitment to the Tees Valley, committee chairwoman Hilary Thompson wanted to know how long it would take to get international GPs in place.

Ms Greaves replied: “Lincoln did this and it took them 18 months to get two GPs into practice from start to finish.

“But it does depend on the GP and the language barrier is often the bigger issue.”