BERKSHIRE health chiefs have shed light on the challenges they are facing in retaining and recruiting GPs in Wokingham.

More than two-thirds of general practitioners in the borough work part-time with efforts being made to recruit more medics from different sectors.

Cathy Winfield, Chief Officer of Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), told Wokingham councillors they are seeing a “generational change” as older doctors retire.

She continued: “We have started to see different people come into our workforce.

“As new GPs come in, we want them to stay.”

Wokingham is set to benefit from a national scheme designed to bring international doctors in to GP surgeries, with a Polish general practitioner being assigned to the area as part of the upcoming plans.

After Winfield announced the plans, councillor Andy Croy said: “You sound a bit excited and a bit desperate – are you desperate?”

Winfield replied: “We’re excited – we are the first in Thames Valley to get one.

“They (international doctors) want to work here in Wokingham because it is close to London and Heathrow. We are hoping to get a GP in this area fairly soon.”

Discussions turned to the CCG’s experience of hiring salaried doctors to work in local surgeries, with Debbie Milligan, the GP lead for the Wokingham locality of Berkshire West CCG, claiming this had been a “car crash”.

She added that many salaried doctors would walk out of their offices minutes after their contracted hours, something sessional GPs would rarely do.

Cllr Croy said: “This is normal in the private sector workplace. The role of the CCG is not to keep the partnership comfortable.

“The private sector can’t do this service so it seems to me the NHS should be doing it.”

The Berkshire West CCG representatives also told councillors how they are trying to encourage undergraduate medics to see becoming a GP as an attractive career choice.

Historically, the authority has not been able to fill GP training places, but they claimed this situation improved this year and a number of different programmes have been introduced entice young doctors to GP surgeries.

Despite this, Cathy Winfield said there was still some difficulties in bringing graduate medics to the area as they “don’t expect to stay in one place for their career” and there are challenges in getting on to the property ladder in Berkshire.

Diversifying the workforce was also outlined as a key priority for the authority and councillors heard that paramedics were being drafted in from the South Central Ambulance Service to help busy practices by visiting patients in north and central Wokingham.

Other initiatives introduced to support the workforce include training administrative staff to help with patient issues, employing physiotherapists so that they can reduce the workload for GPs if patients have concerns with “twitchy knees” or other joint problems, and hiring social prescribers to prevent potential mental and physical health problems in residents.

Councillors heard about the ways Berkshire West CCG was tackling their recruitment and retention challenges at a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, 21 January.