Peter Higgins LMC Chief Executive

Peter’s Blog, Chief Executive, Lancashire & Cumbria Consortium of LMCs, Post 9

Peripheral Coastal Communities Phenomenon (PCCP)

During chance discussions on the GPC List Server it has come to light that many of our coastal communities are suffering a meltdown in their health service infrastructure.

Initially the discussion was around the difficulties in maintaining the viability of practices as partners left, retired or were on protracted sick leave. It is a common national phenomenon but heightened in rural communities that are failing to attract new recruits. The remaining GPs are left to cope with ever increasing demands from their patients and from central government.

This is bad enough in itself but they have increasing pressures from dysfunctional local hospitals who are also struggling to cope. They too can’t attract consultant or junior staff and are forced to run on depleted and locum cover. This can too often result in an extra pressure on local GPs as the provider of last resort. In addition these hospitals are far less likely to be able to provide “drop in” direct patient access services that can be found in the larger hospitals in the conurbations, which can relieve presentations to General Practice.

The characteristics of these peripheral coastal communities appear to be:

  • Historic coastal towns and ports that have declined in economic significance
  • May be “Picture Postcard” locations with relatively small core populations swelled by tourists in the holiday season
  • Significant distance from large conurbations with poor road and rail connections
  • Small District General Hospitals that functioned efficiently in the past but no longer are deemed to have the critical mass for modern medicine.

So, living in these picture postcard communities may have its benefits, if only you can find a post office to post your card from, but it has its risks too. The infrastructure enjoyed by urban conurbations is simply not there, particularly in the vital area of health care. This seems too important an issue to ignore.