Royal College of GPs warn profession could reach 'breaking point'

British Medical Association say government pledge to increase numbers by 5,000 within three years is ‘unachievable’

A government pledge to increase GP numbers by 5,000 within three years is falling short amid fears the profession “could reach breaking point”, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has warned.

The RCGP’s annual report on plans to improve GP services in England raises concern that many doctors are yet to observe significant changes in GP numbers under the recruitment drive, with GP numbers having fallen since September 2016.

A survey of GPs for the report found that 39% think they are unlikely to be working in the profession in England in five years’ time.

The professional body for family doctors in the UK said the findings sparked fears the profession “could reach breaking point” unless progress on the shake-up was accelerated.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “It takes at least three years in speciality training for new doctors to enter the workforce as independent consultant GPs, so while it’s fantastic that more foundation doctors are choosing general practice this year, if more people are leaving the profession than entering it, we’re fighting a losing battle.

“Above all else we need to see efforts stepped up to keep hard-working, experienced GPs in the profession, and the best way to do this is to tackle workload pressures and improve the conditions under which all GPs and our teams are working.

“The college stands by the GP Forward View – we continue to think that it is the lifeline general practice needs to get our profession where it needs to be. But things are moving too slowly.

“We know we’re only one year into a five-year plan, but GPs are desperate – they really, truly want to deliver the best possible care for patients, but the pressures they are under are unbearable.”

The GP Forward View, the government’s five-year plan to improve GP services in England, was announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2014, and formed a key part of the Conservative party’s manifesto for the 2015 election.

Dr Richard Vautrey, the British Medical Association’s GP committee chair, said: “Despite the GP workforce shrinking again last year, the government has continued to promise 5,000 extra GPs to patients. It is time to admit that this pledge is now unachievable.

“In order to create a stable GP workforce, the government must expand the number of GPs entering the profession, and urgently address the underlying issues, particularly the unsafe workload pressure, behind the recruitment and retention crisis in general practice.”

The report said that the government’s commitment to spend an additional £2.4bn each year on general practice by 2020/21 is on track.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We recruited the highest number of GP trainees ever in 2016 – but crucially, we are giving GPs the financial backing to support improvements in patient care, with a £2.4bn increase in funding.”


Patrick Greenfield

The GuardianTramp

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