General practitioner England

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One third of GP vacancies remain unfilled

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Nearly a third of GP partners in England have been unable to fill staff vacancies during the past 12 months, a BMA survey has found.

Thirty-one per cent of partners responding to the association’s GP survey admitted they had had to put up with vacancies, having not been able to recruit over the year-long period.

The survey also found that one in five partners reported their practice taking between three to six months to appoint staff to a vacant posts, while only one in eight said they had had no gaps to fill.

Areas with the highest levels of unfilled vacancies include the west midlands and east of England, each at 35 per cent reporting, and the east midlands at 34 per cent.

BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said that the figures showed the severity of the staffing crisis adding that, in many cases, locum cover was the only thing keeping such practices ‘afloat’.

He said: ‘It is deeply concerning that so many GPs are reporting that their practices effectively have permanent holes in their workforce, which they are unable to fill.

‘In addition to this, only a small number of GP practices are operating with no vacancies, while the vast majority of GP services are suffering from constant shortages of GPs.

'It is clear that the crisis is so bad that general practice is being kept afloat by the essential help of locums who are stepping in to provide day-to-day services to patients.’

He added: ‘These chronic shortages come despite government promises at the last election to recruit 5,000 more GPs, a pledge that has failed to materialise.

'As these figures demonstrate, those practices with long-term vacancies are also those struggling with unmanageable workload, leaving many GP services struggling to provide even basic care to their community.’

A finding the survey reported last week was the 84 per cent of GPs who reported that their ability to provide safe care to patients was being undermined by overwhelming workload levels.

These results bear added significance, as around four in 10 GP partners who described their workloads as excessive and significantly impacting on care also said they were unable to fill vacancies.

The pressures are also shared by sessional GPs.

GP trainees subcommittee chair Zoe Norris said: ‘Choosing a career as a salaried or locum GP is a positive choice for thousands of GPs across England … However, we should not be blind to the fact that salaried and locum GPs are on the receiving end of the same pressures that are threatening all of general practice.

‘We need NHS England and the Government to realise that they cannot continue to rely on burnt-out grassroots GPs to provide a service that is under threat of collapse.’

Find out more about the latest survey findings

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