Chronic lack of GPs

A recent study predicts that, on current trends, the UK will face a shortfall of almost 10,000 GPs within four years, which could result in up to 600 practices closing their doors by 2020.

One of the main reasons for the lack of GPs is that rising numbers of family doctors are retiring early, possibly due to Treasury rules that have increased tax rates for those with pension pots worth more than £1m.

Meanwhile, the number of trainee doctors choosing to become GPs is falling far short of demand and, shockingly, in Yorkshire, the NHS Doncaster clinical commissioning group admitted that its out-of-hours services had been operating without a single GP to treat patients who fell sick overnight.

A number of areas are trying to ramp up recruitment, with health service managers in Cumbria, for example, drawing up plans to recruit refugee doctors to work locally as GPs.

In this area, which is one of the several offering trainee GPs “golden hellos” of £20,000 on top of their salaries, the proposals to employ foreign doctors who have been granted asylum follow NHS research warnings that general practice in the area is “very fragile”.

As one of the members of Cumbria’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) pointed out, while employing competent, English-speaking doctors is valid, the longer-term solution would be for the NHS to understand what attracts people and redesign the job accordingly.

However, according to the NHS, the various recruitment proposals are not formal and are part of schemes that will go to public consultation. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Health (DH) said that total investment in general practice in England rose to over £9bn in the last year; an increase of almost 5 per cent from 2014/15.