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Not with the Programme: GP shortage

Posted on 25/05/2017 by Rob Muddiman

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Data from NHS Digital has shown a drop in the numbers of GPs for the first year since NHS England launched their workforce programme designed to increase the number of GPs in general practice by 5,000 by 2020.

The programme gave funding to support all areas of recruiting GPs, improving training, ongoing support, retaining staff and attracting GPs back into practice, but NHS Digital’s figures show that the programme is not currently working. The RCGP have previously stated that 5,000 was not enough and predicted the pledge could take 19 years to achieve.

More than 250,000 patients have been displaced by GP closures in the last year, a fivefold rise from 2013. Last month figures showed record numbers of GP practices closing, following an increase in the number of doctors retiring early ahead of a clampdown on pension pots.  It is believed 1 in 8 GP positions is now vacant.

At TPP Recruitment this has been borne out. We have found an increase in demand for GPs, but a shortage of jobseekers, adding more pressure and demand to a GP practice unable to properly staff their surgeries. Pulse reported that 1 in 5 surgeries are abandoning their search for a GP and some surgeries have had to close as a result. On average, it has taken 7.4 months to recruit a GP.

With the election around the corner it is vital that GP recruitment and retention is a priority for the next government to ensure the services of GPs can meet the needs of patients. On top of this almost half of the 10,000 EEA doctors working in the NHS are considering leaving the UK following the referendum results. EU workers in general practice play a huge part in the NHS and losing their skills could have disastrous consequences on the NHS. Doctors undergo years of training, so if we can’t recruit new doctors within the UK currently, then it is even more crucial to retain our current workforce.

The Conservatives have said they maintain their commitment to the programme and have brought forward their target to give every patient access to a GP seven days a week to 2019. While Labour have committed £37bn extra over 5 years to the NHS but have not outlined precisely how they are going to spend it.

Are you concerned about how Brexit will impact your surgery? Have you struggled to recruit GPs? We would love to hear your opinions and thoughts so please email and share your experiences.