A TAUNTON medical centre has told patients it has been “badly affected by the staffing crisis” facing the NHS in England.

A shortage of clinical staff has forced it and some other healthcare practices in Somerset to temporarily reduce their services amid efforts to recruit more doctors and nurses.

It has been estimated that England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives, while health and social care services are continuing to face Covid-related staff absences.

St James Medical Centre, located in Coal Orchard, has said its struggles to replace doctors who have retired or taken maternity leave and Covid-19 cases have caused it to limit appointments “at times”.

It was only able to accept emergency appointments on July 1 and July 4 due to staff sickness.

In a Facebook post published on Monday, St James said: “Unfortunately, we too are badly affected by the staffing crisis. In the last year, we have had three full-time doctors retire and we currently have another two doctors on maternity and one other doctor due to leave us shortly due to relocation.

“Trying to replace these doctors has proven difficult and we currently still have two vacancies for doctor roles.

“This, combined with the Covid-19 spike over the last month, has resulted in us having to limit our appointments to emergency only at times, which is not what we or our patients want.”

A report published on Monday by the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee of MPs found services in England are facing “the greatest workforce crisis in their history”.

The report said: “The persistent understaffing of the NHS now poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, both for routine and emergency care. It also costs more as patients present later with more serious illness.

“But most depressing for many on the frontline is the absence of any credible strategy to address any of it.”

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the committee, said addressing the “workforce crisis” must be a “top priority” for the new prime minister.

Somerset County Gazette: The NHS is doing ‘everything we can to recruit more primary care staff, including doctors, nurses and others’. Picture: Anthony Devlin, PA WireThe NHS is doing ‘everything we can to recruit more primary care staff, including doctors, nurses and others’. Picture: Anthony Devlin, PA Wire

Jeremy Imms, associate clinical director of primary care with NHS Somerset, said: “GP services across the whole country are facing very high demand while coping with continued Covid-related sickness absences. 

“Although all practices in Somerset remain open, unfortunately there are times when, due to a shortage of clinical staff, a reduced service has to be provided for a short time. 

“Practices are working very closely with the wider NHS to mitigate the impact for patients. This includes an increasing number of patients receiving consultations at community pharmacies within four hours following referral from their GP surgery. 

“We are also doing everything we can to recruit more primary care staff, including doctors, nurses and others.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors and 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019.

“As we continue to deliver on our commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, we are also running a £95 million recruitment drive for maternity services and providing £500 million to develop our valued social care workforce, including through training opportunities and new career pathways.

“We have commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan to recruit and support NHS staff while they deliver high-quality, safe care to patients and help to bust the Covid backlogs.”