THE chronic shortage of GPs in Swindon has been labelled a life-or-death crisis.

The warning comes after it was revealed surgeries in the borough need to recruit 28 more full-time GPs to be able to cope with the demand from patients who often face long waits for an appointment.

There are currently 116 full-time GPs working in Swindon – representing a shortfall of 25 per cent. The number has dropped from 125 – 7.8 per cent – in the past two years.

And while MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland say the government will invest billions in a bid to reverse the worrying nationwide trend, Labour councillor Bob Wright underlined the severity of the problem faced by patients in the here and now.

“Absolutely nothing we’ve done has made a difference in our poorest areas and as a result these people die,” he said.

“The worst element of all this is that someone could be saved if they were seen by somebody.”

He added: “I’ve spoken to local MPs and sent them information on the issue and they told me that they are working on it.

“They’ve been working on it for some time and the improvements haven’t come. I acknowledge that there are record doctors in training and record money going in but it’s not sufficient to match today’s needs.”

NHS Digital statistics revealed in February that Swindon patients faced some of the longest GP appointment waits in England. More than a quarter of people were left waiting over two weeks to be seen by a doctor in the run up to Christmas.

The borough’s population of around 220,000 is expected to rise by 11 per cent between 2018 and 2028, putting extra pressure on the town’s medial practices.

Since March 2018 more than 4,000 extra patients have registered with a GP in Swindon.

The development officer for Healthwatch Swindon, Jo Osorio, said: “The county has been trying to attract people here and continue to do so. There’s no doubt that patients of many GP practices in Swindon it can take a while to get a regular appointment.

“One of the things we do have to emphasise is that people very often don’t need to see a general practitioner. There are a whole variety of other clinically appropriate people that can be seen like a specialist nurse or clinical pharmacist.”

Mr Tomlinson, the Conservative MP for North Swindon, said: “We are rightly committed to delivering an additional 5,000 GPs nationally with record numbers of GPs in training, up 10 per cent last year alone. Myself, Robert Buckland MP and the CCG will continue to explore all the ways to make sure Swindon is an attractive location for these new GPs vital for fellow local residents.”

Justice secretary and MP for South Swindon, Mr Buckland, added: “As a user of local GP services myself, I continue to take a deep interest in this issue.

“Firstly, we are now investing at least £4.5 billion more on primary care services in real terms a year by 2023/24.

“Secondly, a five-year GP, General Medical Services, contract framework from this year has been agreed, which will deliver billions of extra investment for improved access to family doctors, expanded services at local practices and longer appointments for patients who need them.

“Increasing the number of doctors working in general practice will be boosted by more funding for the core GP contract, which is set to rise by £978 million a year by 2023/24.”

The decision to hand Manchester-based call centre firm IMH the contract to oversee five surgeries in the town has only added to the problem. Patients have complained of lengthy waits on the phone and the ongoing issues prompted three GP partners at Moredon Medical Centre to quit in June.

Coun Wright added: “Unfortunately there has been conflict with doctors through change and those changes are still happening today.

“IMH was about modernising but now we have the worst GP booking system.”