There are calls for cheaper housing to try and entice doctors to help with a GP crisis.
Swale has a GP ratio of just 0.14 doctors per 1,000 patients and one councillor claims it is only going to get worse if urgent action isn’t taken.
Conservative Party leader for Swale, Lloyd Bowen, has put forward a motion to full council asking for urgent help from the government to get more doctors in the borough.
The representative for Teynham ward believes residents in Swale are struggling to access primary healthcare, and worries about the growing number of patients per GP.
In his motion, he highlights the high house prices as a reason GPs are not coming to Kent.
It reads: “House prices in Swale have risen by an average of 7.7% in the last twelve months with the average price paid for a property in Swale in July 2023 being £334,000. The cost of living in the South East and Swale in particular is one of the reasons given for GPs not locating to Kent.”
Cllr Bowen insists more needs to be done to not only attract new GPs to the borough, but to retain existing ones.
He said: "We want to know what is possible to encourage them to locate here.
"We need to retain those who are currently practising here and make sure they're okay too, otherwise we are just going to go round and round in circles.
"This has been a long-term problem for Swale, and something which has been pre-pandemic.
"Even in my ward of Teynham, the Medic Centre surgery has relocated to Memorial Medical Centre.
"So we struggle to find GPs across the borough, and we need to make it attractive for people to go into the profession.
"The health and wellbeing of existing GPs isn't going to be as high as it should be either.
"So the ratio does affect people's lives and how long some people are going to live for."
Figures presented in documents by Swale Borough Council suggest the ratio of GPs per 1000 patients in England currently stands at around 0.75, or just 0.58 full-time equivalent (FTE).
In Kent and Medway, the ratio increases to 0.62 (0.49 FTE), with Swale, as of September 2022, seeing a ratio of 0.53 (0.39 FTE) - with some areas as low as 0.14 per 1000 patients.
Cllr Bowen has called on party leaders for the borough to arrange for a letter to be sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay.
The motion will be discussed at Swale's full council meeting on Wednesday (October 11).
Cllr Bowen explained: "Since I joined the council more than ten years ago, I don't think I have seen a motion supported by all the party leaders like this one.
"We want to make sure central government are aware that there is an issue here which is affecting public health, so something can be done about it.
"The GP-patient ratio in Swale is below both the national and Kent average, and is one of the worst in the country - something which is not making it a suitable service.
"It's not just an issue to do with pay, but the fact that there are pockets of Sittingbourne and Sheppey which have some of the most deprived areas in the county.
"The life expectancy is also lower in some areas here, and the GP-patient ratio is not going to improve because of that as the workload is higher.
"The intention behind the motion is to highlight the need for government to look at this issue more widely, so they can look at putting in measures which will recruit GPs to come and practice in Swale."
In his motion, Cllr Bowen also growing population which is adding to the pressure.
It reads: “The population of Swale increased by 11.7% between 2011/2021 from 135,800 in 2011 to around 151,700 in 2021. This is a larger increase than both the national average (6.6%) and the South East Average (7.5%) and yet the number of GPs has fallen in this time.
He continued: "[So] the council agrees that leader (Tim Gibson) write to the Secretary of State for Health asking him to work with the council to provide innovative, funded solutions to encourage more GPs to locate to Swale.
"This could include financial assistance given to the council/GPs to assist with housing for a fixed period."
Councillor Monique Bonney has already said treatment in Sittingbourne needs to be improved earlier this summer.
And patients are feeling the strain too. Sittingbourne resident Debbie Pettit, 59, whose surgery is The Meads Medical Practice at Quartz Way, says getting an appointment is the biggest challenge.
Mrs Pettit, who runs the White Horse pub in Charlotte Street, said: “I once tried more than 100 times to get through to people at The Meads, so getting an appointment is a nightmare.
"Once you get an appointment the care is normally great, and even the waiting room is never usually busy.
"But even getting seen for just a blood test is nearly impossible, and it all comes down to not having enough surgeries in the area.
"I have friends who use other surgeries in Sittingbourne, and they actually have to wait longer to get an appointment than I do most of the time, which just shows the scale of the problem."