Fewer GPs are choosing to work in poorer areas but more are joining surgeries that look after wealthier populations, new official figures reveal.
The exodus, uncovered by Labour MP Frank Field, is exacerbating the existing “under-doctoring” of deprived populations – the lack of family doctors in places where poorer people live.
Experts said the widening divide between rich and poor areas in GP numbers – which is one of England’s starkest health inequalities – would force the least well-off to wait longer for an appointment, even though they are generally sicker and die earlier than the rest of the population.
“A decade ago the country was beginning to make some serious inroads into the under-doctoring of the poorest areas. What these grim figures show is that in recent years that progress has not only stalled, but actually gone into reverse,” Field told the Observer.
“The most worrying trend here is the number of GPs ceasing to serve people towards the bottom of the pile, while at the same time people in the wealthiest areas have benefited from an even better service. Vulnerable people are having to suffer in silence without being able to see a GP.
“Here’s another example of everything going in the wrong direction if our goal is to equalise health opportunities and outcomes. It is a new appalling face of inequality in modern Britain.”
There were 8,207 GPs working in areas containing the most deprived quintile of the population in England in 2008. But by last year that number had fallen to 7,696 – a drop of 511 – according to the response to a written parliamentary question Field asked recently.
But over the same decade the number of family doctors working in the most prosperous fifth of the population increased from 4,058 to 4,192 – a rise of 134, public health minister Steve Brine told Field.
Fuck keeping affluent people alive, help us instead