The proportion of unfilled GP positions has reached its highest ever level according to a new survey — a finding doctors say highlights the stark ‘reality for practices up and down the country’.
Just a year after the Government promised to recruit 5,000 more GPs, the survey, by the magazine Pulse, found that around 12 per cent of GP posts are vacant.
This represents a significant rise from the 9.1 per cent vacancy rate in 2015 and 2.1 per cent in 2011, the first year the magazine carried out the survey. The NHS does not collect data on vacancy rates.
The survey of 690 GPs also revealed that almost half of practices have had to recruit a partner within the past 12 months, with job hunts taking around six months on average.
BMA GP committee chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured) said: ‘The Government must ensure that practices that are suffering recruitment problems will be supported and relieved of admin pressures, and be allowed to close their lists.
‘The most important thing is that practices do not feel forced to practise unsafely.’
The latest survey finding comes after NHS figures revealed a 2 per cent drop in the number of full-time equivalent GPs last year, despite the Government’s commitment to increase numbers.
Ministers outlined a 10-point plan to tackle the problem last year but the shortage has since worsened.
In April, NHS England published the General Practice Forward View — a report setting out a programme of increased support for general practice over the next five years.
The rescue package, which includes investment of £2.4bn per year, followed lobbying and calls for action from the GPC, including in the BMA’s paper Responsive, Safe and Sustainable: Our Urgent Prescription for General Practice.
BMA GP committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey said the survey showed that funding was needed immediately.
‘We need the Government to urgently implement its promised plan to deliver extra investment, more staff and better funding for general practice so that patients can get the service they deserve,’ he added.
The Pulse survey also found that 73 per cent of practices have had to recruit at least one GP in the past month and 47 per cent have had to recruit a partner.
Royal College of General Practitioners chair Maureen Baker said: ‘General practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, caused by years of underinvestment in and undervalue of our service.
‘This survey brings home just how important it is that we do everything in our power to recruit more GPs, urgently implement schemes to retain existing ones, and make it easier for trained family doctors to return to practice in the UK following a career break or period working abroad.
‘General practice is the bedrock of the health service. We keep the NHS sustainable and our patients safe, so it’s vital that we have enough GPs and practice team members to do so for years to come.’
The story so far
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