THURROCK has been labelled one of the most “under-doctored boroughs in the country” – with just one doctor to every 2,700 patients.

The director of primary care in Thurrock revealed the stark figures to the council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week. And said Thurrock is now facing a severe shortage of GPs – and plans need to be in place to avoid a “worst case scenario”.

Rahul Chaudhari told the committee: “Within Thurrock primary care is challenged, we are one of the most under-doctored boroughs in the country and that extends not just to doctors but also to nursing.

“Nationally doctor to patient ratio is one to 800, in Thurrock it is one GP to every 2,700. In nursing, nationally it is one nurse to every 4,000 patients but in Thurrock it is about one nurse to every 6,000 patients so this is quite significant.

“In terms of capacity and demand across Thurrock, Southend and Basildon there is shortfall of 20,000 appointments per week in primary care.”

If nothing is done, he said this shortfall would reach a “worst case scenario” by 2020-21, which would see that gap widen to more than 60,000.

To plug the gap Thurrock’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been working with other CCGs across mid and south Essex to develop a Primary Care Strategy, aimed at regenerating primary care, reducing workload and encouraging recruitment.

The £30million scheme aims to recruit 120 GPs across mid and south Essex to meet a national target of having 682 full time GPs in post by 2020. It also hopes to slash waiting times by recruiting or redeploying a further 200 healthcare workers.

The strategy was announced in June and is seen as an “umbrella” strategy whereby all the clinical commissioning groups across mid and south Essex implement it in the way that works best for their area.

For Thurrock the new Integrated Medical Centres, set to open by 2021, are considered a key factor in the turnaround as they bring a whole range of healthcare services together under one roof.

A council officer told the committee: “It is important to say that although a lot of the discussion has been about Orsett Hospital and the future of Orsett, the original concept of the Integrated Medical Centres was to address issues such as the quality and quantity of primary care.

“It is about delivering more integrated services. This is remodelling the workforce and it’s about getting a GP-led service rather than GP delivered service where you can get referred directly to a physio for example rather than having to go through a GP.

“The whole pathway for accessing healthcare quickly will change.”

Another measure could see a scheme introduced, which will allow patients to cancel appoints by text rather than having to phone.