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    An NHS sign is pictured at St Thomas' Hospital in front of the Big Ben clock face and the Elizabeth Tower on January 13, 2017 in London.

    Decrease of General Practitioners in Britain Could Prompt NHS Collapse - Scholar

    © AFP 2018 / Isabel Infantes
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    A new study published by the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned that millions of patients could lose their GP surgery within the next 12 months as factors such as stress contribute to a shortage of doctors.

    With more on this story, Sputnik spoke to Saurabh Jha, an Associate Professor of Radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, who warned that it could mean a real shift in demand for doctors.

    Sputnik: What would a shortage of doctors mean for people across Britain?

    Saurabh Jha: It could mean a fair amount of shift of demand. We’re talking about general practitioners (GPs) and what GPs do is gate keep the hospital by solving issues which would otherwise be presented to the emergency department, things like colds, coughs, chronic problems [and] chronic symptoms.

    In the absence of actually having lost that many GPs because of early retirement or simply going elsewhere like Australia, the demand will shift to the emergency department and that could be quite catastrophic.

    It won’t go unnoticed by other people, it’s not as if you can be a doctor in the hospital and say ‘oh a few hundred GPs have just decided to throw in the towel’ and take early retirement – it will effect everybody. The care coordination and everything else; GPs are really the scaffolding of the NHS, and if you break the scaffolding the whole thing will collapse on itself.

    Sputnik: Could we see doctors move from Britain to other countries, if working conditions and morale doesn’t improve?

    Saurabh Jha: I think we have been seeing that already. If we look at the demand for positions in Australia they’ve taken a little bit of an extra surge, especially amongst junior doctors. Of course Australia won’t be able to accommodate every single the tent of demand and moving will have its own limitation but yes, you already see that with doctors moving to Australia, New Zealand and Canada…

    There is a pathway and that more and more people will use the pathway, and be enticed by it. I think that’s more the case for junior doctors, those in training opposed to those already in practice because once you’re in practice and you have a house, kids, school etc. etc. moving in general becomes much more difficult. I do think that’s a real possibility although it would be guarded by how many the can accommodate.

    Sputnik: What procurement policies should the government be taking to ensure there isn't a deficit of doctors working in Britain?

    Saurabh Jha: The obvious thing to say is that we need more GPs but that not really going to solve the morale issue. The morale issue is partly because GPs have been given undue pressures, undue performance pressures and undue documentation pressures.

    One way would be, and this happens in the US as well, is that when the regulatory burden was so much a lot of primary care physicians went independent and went independent of the insurance system, and independent of the government system; they were able to adjust their own workload and see patients for much longer periods of time.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Saurabh Jha and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    demand, doctors, general practitioners, National Health Service (NHS), Saurabh Jha, United Kingdom
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