Winter Health Crisis: The Tip Of The Iceberg For Maidstone Residents. One in three West Kent GPs and nurses set to retire by 2020.
The long-anticipated, and much-feared, winter crisis in our health service has dominated the headlines recently. A&E departments in Kent and across the country have been overwhelmed, with severe waiting times for patients and dangerous bed shortages.
Locally, this is the tip of the iceberg. For many residents in Maidstone, problems at A&E are compounded by insufficient provision of primary care, the health care provided for people in the community by GPs.
I attended a recent meeting of the West Kent Health and Wellbeing Board, where they discussed NHS, social care and public health provision where we live; and two things stuck out to me. The first is the health inequality that already exists in Maidstone, of which too many of us are unaware; the second is the severe shortage of GPs in West Kent.
Increasing demand for primary care in our borough has been an agonising and growing problem affecting residents for years now. Many people in town centre and rural practices have relayed to me that they are unable to get appointments when needed, and for people moving homes, joining a local practice has been difficult or impossible.
A local GP told me that the number of vacancies for GPs in West Kent is rising, but young doctors are not joining the profession - they’re training locally, but not staying here. Even more worrying is that a third of all current GPs and nurses will be retired by 2020. So Mrs May’s latest demand that GP surgeries should be open for longer hours is frankly ridiculous.
With too few GPs to satisfy the demand in Maidstone, many residents are missing out on a continuity of care which is concerning. It is concerning for those people who need it most: people suffering from long-term mental health problems or those with a complicated medical history.
This is a situation which has been brushed under the carpet for too long. It needs immediate actions, joined-up thinking, and planning for the long-term. If this is a familiar picture in your community, please do get in touch - I’d like to hear your story.
Emily Fermor is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Maidstone & The Weald