NEW figures have revealed a shortage of doctors in Dorset that could be putting patients at risk according to a trade union.

Figures published by the NHS indicate a shortfall of 54 GPs in the county - a two per cent decrease in GP numbers between 2015 to 2019 according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The TUC also revealed that between 2015 to 2019 the number of patients in Dorset increased by three per cent, putting additional demand on services.

The British Medical Association recommends that GPs should have around 1,600 patients on their lists in order to provide a high-quality service.

In Dorset, GPs have an average of 1,791 patients on their lists according to data published by NHS Digital.

Dr Jon Orrell, who is based at Crescent Street doctors surgery in Weymouth, agrees that there is a problem.

He said: "This report from the TUC is accurate. This is felt here in Weymouth with Lanehouse surgery merging and Abbotsbury Road closing due to problems recruiting new GPs.

"When I became a GP it was a popular job, with around 100 applicants per post.

"Now national job adverts attract no applicants at all. We are relatively fortunate as my practice trains new GPs so we are fully staffed, but I know two other local surgeries are vulnerable due to lack of GPs.

"As well as a lack of new GPs we have lost many excellent experienced GPs due to ill-considered pension changes.

"The solution is not more money, it is more GPs and other staff such as paramedics, nurse practitioners and pharmacists - there are not enough of these either.

"We have lost many fantastic doctors and nurses due to a hostile environment to those from overseas, who have in the past bailed us out."

A spokesperson for NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:

“The standard of general practice in Dorset is very high with 97% of practices being rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

“We are working with GPs, their teams and community staff, linking with specialist teams, to make sure services are available when you need them.

“Dorset is no different to other parts of the country where there are national shortages of GPs. We are doing all we can to overcome this locally and develop an even more resilient primary care network model.”

Nigel Costley, TUC regional secretary, said:

“Our hardworking and overstretched GPs are working tirelessly to help patients. But there are simply not enough of them to keep up with demand.

“As a result waiting times are increasing and patients are not getting the treatments they need on time. And family doctors are stressed and overwhelmed.

“The government must improve the services working families rely on by investing in our NHS and boosting GP numbers.”