Over-65s outnumber specialist doctors by 9,500 to one, stark figures reveal

GP consultation

All GP practices have been told they must offer patients the choice of face-to-face appointments. - Credit: PA

Health leaders in the region are warning of "disastrous times ahead" for older generations, with specialist physicians now outnumbered by the people needing their care by one to 9,500.

Stark new figures compiled by the Royal College of Physicians show that in the east of England there is just one full-time geriatrician - a doctor who specialises in elderly care - for every 9,552 people aged over 65.

The figures make the east the fourth-worst off in the country in this area and there are fears the situation could worsen.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that by 2040 there will be some 17m people aged over 65 nationwide.

With more than half of the region's GPs due to reach retirement age in the next 10 years, leaders have warned that Norfolk and Waveney's already embattled health system will end up more and more clogged up.

Tim Morton, chairman of the Local Medical Committee, has warned that there could be "disastrous times ahead" if this trend is allowed to continue, with the strain set to fall on general practitioners.

The Beccles GP says this will ultimately result in delays elsewhere in the care system, as surgeries find themselves clogged up and unable to meet demand.

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He said: "We need a proper work-through strategy or we will have increasing disastrous times ahead.

"It is a huge concern - the bulk of the work is already done by GPs and the percentage of over-65s is higher here than elsewhere as our region is looked at as a good place to retire.

"There is already a huge deal of pressure on local services as it is and I think we are already at the stage where we are seeing the demand for services outstrip the supply."

Dr Tim Morton

Dr Tim Morton - Credit: Archant

Dr Morton said that geriatricians were not the only specialist physicians in short supply, with fewer training in specialist areas and greater demand on general practitioners.

The study prompted warning calls from the RCP. Its president Andrew Goddard said: “I have dedicated my career to working in the NHS – a service that I am fiercely proud of - and yet it scares me to wonder what might happen should I need care as I get older. There simply aren’t enough doctors to go round, not least within geriatrics."