General practitioner England

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Government seeks answers on GP shortage

The BMA hopes to work with an independent review examining the number of GPs needed.

Jeremy HuntThe BMA GPs committee welcomed the announcement of a review and said it was ‘encouraging’ that health secretary Jeremy Hunt had acknowledged there was a shortage of GPs.

Mr Hunt (pictured right) told the Royal College of GPs conference in Liverpool yesterday: ‘We all know we need more GPs but, if we are honest, there’s an element of guesswork to precisely how many we need.

‘So, today I can announce that I have asked Health Education England to do an independent study of what exactly we need to do in terms of a GP workforce.’

He said the review would look at the country area by area ‘because I think we need to know exactly where we are under-doctored … and by how much’.

The health secretary acknowledged there were not enough GPs and that the 10-minute consultation was not sufficient to care for patients with complex conditions and comorbidities.

Urgent action

GPC chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured below) said: ‘It is encouraging that the health secretary has acknowledged that there is real shortage of GPs following a long, sustained campaign by the BMA to draw this to the attention of policymakers.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul is Chairman of the General Practitioners Committee‘We would be happy to work collaboratively with the independent review to ensure that we get accurate, reliable figures on the numbers of GPs we need to both cope with the current and future patient demand. 

‘However, while we await the review, we have an urgent need to address the fact that GP practices are at breaking point trying to cope with rising patient demand, falling resources, a shortage of GPs and policymakers' desire to move more work into the community.’

Dr Nagpaul insisted that the review must be linked to the reality of care moving out of hospitals, a growing older population with multiple health needs, and prime minister David Cameron’s recently announced plans to extend GP opening hours.

He added: ‘We must plan for a GP workforce based on future requirements not just to stand still today.’

Dr Nagpaul said GP returner schemes were needed to encourage more doctors to return to practices and more work done on encouraging doctors into general practice.

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