‘Staggering’ GP vacancy problem must be tackled

The “staggering” GP vacancy problem must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

This is the message from the Royal College of General Practitioners, which has launched its manifesto ahead of the general election on June 8.

‘Six Steps for Safer General Practice’ urges the next government to deliver the GP Forward View in full, including £2.4 billion extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs by 2020. The RCGP also wants to ensure the status of EU GPs working in the NHS is secure as part of Brexit negotiations.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “We know that practices across the country are finding it really difficult to recruit GPs to fill vacant posts, and the degree to which this problem has increased over the last six years is staggering. In the most severe cases, not being able to recruit has forced practices to close, and this can be a devastating experience for the patients and staff affected, and the wider NHS.

“Being a GP is intellectually challenging, emotionally rewarding and incredibly varied – it should be an easy profession to recruit to. But at present UK general practice does not have sufficient resources to deliver the care and services necessary to meet our patients’ changing needs – meaning that GPs and our teams are working under intense pressures, which are simply unsustainable.”

She added: “Workload in general practice is escalating – it has increased 16% over the last seven years according to the latest research – yet investment in our service has steadily declined over the last decade and the number of GPs has not risen in step with patient demand.

“This must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Progress is being made in recruiting more junior doctors into general practice, but overall GP numbers are down on last year, so we need to see a huge push in efforts to retain trained, experienced GPs in the workforce – as well as continuing to step up recruitment efforts, and making it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad.”

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