Health Hawke's Bay and the Hawke's Bay District Health Board are working together to try to address retention and recruitment issues with general practices in the region, with rural GP shortages also in their sights.

The Royal College of General Practitioners 2015 workforce survey report, which was released earlier this month, sounded the alarm about the falling number of general practitioners throughout the country, further evidenced in waiting lists for patients wishing to enrol with a practice, and practices with closed books.

The report noted that in some regions it was a struggle to attract GPs and in those locations vacancies remained unfilled for extended periods, and it also warned about an ageing workforce adding to doctor shortages.

In Hawke's Bay 32 GP practices are listed on the DHB website. Of those, 9 are said to have full books, 13 are taking patients with conditions, and 10 are currently enrolling.

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At the CHB Health Centre in Waipukurau where Tukituki Medical is based, Dr Paddy O'Brien said the practice was full to the brim but that did not mean they did not register new patients, and they also saw casual patients all the time.

"When patients leave to go to other districts we fill those spaces with people in need of ongoing care, and if someone comes to the district with ongoing care needs such as diabetes we register them.

"We are very busy but we are flexible and try to accommodate everyone."

Health Hawke's Bay is the region's Primary Health Organisation (PHO) and acting chief executive Nicola Ehau said projects were being worked on aimed at better retention and recruitment within general practice (both GP's and nurses) throughout Hawke's Bay.

"We are in the middle of a survey to get a baseline of what is occurring in the general practice workforce so we can determine priorities and training aspirations, as well as future needs," Ms Ehau said.

"One of the things we are looking at is to see if we can establish a rural learning hub in Central Hawke's Bay, so we can attract junior doctors into the area, and they then may see themselves living and working in the area in the future.

"We are also working closely with practices in Waipukurau and Waipawa to see how the PHO and district health board can better support them into the future."

Additional activities were also under way, such as supporting nurses and doctors to expand on their skills, and supporting specialty skills/services, Ms Ehau said.

"We are also looking at new models such as expanding the workforce by introducing social workers, allied health professionals and support services such as navigators and kaiawhina."

Dr O'Brien said Tukituki Medical was already doing some of this work itself, so he was not entirely sure what the intention was with these initiatives.

'We have a teaching facility here and junior doctors come in at times and spend a few months at a time - we also have social workers who are aligned with our facilities."

He said such initiatives had been talked about in the past although it had been fairly vague.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board acting service manager Wietske Cloo, responsible for the rural health centres, said that unless it was an emergency a family doctor, Healthline or the nearest accident and medical centre should always be the first port of call.