Housing growth could leave Northumberland short of GPs

The draft Local Plan is out for public consultation until next week.
The draft Local Plan is out for public consultation until next week.

Northumberland could be left short of around 50 GPs due to the numbers of new homes being built in coming years, a council meeting heard.

Northumberland County Council planning officers made a presentation to the July meeting of the health and wellbeing board about the healthcare implications of the draft Local Plan, on which people can have their say until next Wednesday, August 15.

There are a number of policies in the document which deal with or touch on health and wellbeing elements, but one of the main concerns was around healthcare infrastructure.

Dr Richard Glennie said that his ‘quick fag-packet calculations’ suggested that the number of new homes proposed in the 20-year plan could mean Northumberland has a shortfall of around 50 GPs based on current trends.

And, in fact, as previously reported, while the document calls for 17,700 new homes from 2016 to 2036, there are already more than 22,000 built, under construction or with planning permission.

Siobhan Brown, the chief operating officer of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “We want to work with you (the council) to get the right infrastructure to support all this population coming in.”

It was highlighted that in recent months, the council had already started seeking contributions from developers for healthcare provision and that this would continue through policies in the draft plan.

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, felt that the policies around providing suitable homes for older people should have ‘more teeth’.

Planning officer Steve Robson explained that policies require all new open-market houses and 75 per cent of affordable homes to meet or exceed the enhanced accessibility and adaptability housing standards, while the other 25 per cent would have to meet or exceed the enhanced wheelchair adaptable standards.

Coun Veronica Jones, the cabinet member for health and wellbeing, added that the Local Plan policies were supplemented by the council’s new Extra Care and Supported Housing Strategy, which was approved in June.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We are starting to recognise that private developers are not building the houses that match community needs.”

He explained that this very issue was discussed at the first meeting of the North of Tyne Housing and Land Board – part of the new combined authority under the area’s devolution deal – in early July.

“Homes England in particular are really interested in our strategy and want us to be an exemplar for the whole country on rural housing provision,” he added.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service