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Doctors call for rethink of GP Forward View as targets ‘unachievable’

Doctors have today warned that NHS England is falling short of its target to recruit 5,000 more GPs into the profession by 2020, and warned that a ‘rethink’ was now needed to ensure targets are put back on track

In its annual assessment of the GP Forward View, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said that some steps forward had been made in areas such as increasing staff numbers in the wider practice team, as 2,896 full time equivalent practice staff entered the profession between September 2015 and September 2016.

And the number entering GP specialty training was also set to increase, with 2,927 doctors already signed up after recruitment round 2 in 2016.

However, the college’s analysis, which is based on data and member feedback, and also found that worryingly over a third (39%) of doctors said that it was unlikely that they would be working as a GP in five years’ time.

It also follows NHS Digital publishing data that showed that the number of people being recruited as GPs had actually gone down since September 2016.

 “It takes at least three years in specialty training for new doctors to enter the workforce as independent consultant GPs so whilst it’s fantastic that more foundation doctors are choosing general practice this year, if more people are leaving the profession than entering it, we’re fighting a losing battle,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP.

“Above all else we need to see efforts stepped up to keep hard working, experienced GPs in the profession, and the best way to do this is to tackle workload pressures and improve the conditions under which all GPs and our teams are working.”

Professor Stokes-Lampard also said that while the college was still standing with the GP Forward View, progress to act on its ambitions was currently moving too slowly.

“We know we’re only one year into a five-year plan, but GPs are desperate – they really, truly want to deliver the best possible care for patients, but the pressures they are under are unbearable,” she argued. “Our members were promised impactful change by now, but unfortunately many are telling us that the difference they are seeing on the ground is not enough and they are feeling let down.

“We are certainly not suggesting that NHS England, Health Education England and others have been resting on their laurels – we know they are committed to making things better in general practice.

“But it is clear that there is a lot more to do, specifically around building our workforce. We need the GP Forward View delivered in full and in time, and if that involves a rethink of some strategies, then so be it – it’s necessary and in the best interests of GPs, the wider NHS and our patients.”

Delivery of FYFV has been 'inconsistent' 

And Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said that now was the time for the government to admit that the pledge to bring 5,000 more GPs into the sector was now “unachievable”.

“General practice is facing unprecedented pressures from rising patient demand, tighter budgets and widespread staff shortages. Many GP practices are struggling to meet rising demand on services, with a recent BMA survey finding that eight out of 10 GPs believe their workload is either unmanageable or excessive,” he said.

“While the GP Forward View’s focus on extra staff and investment in general practice is correct, it fails to provide sustainable or recurrent funding, and the delivery so far has been inconsistent with little tangible improvement to the delivery of local services to patients.

“In order to create a stable GP workforce, the government must expand the number of GPs entering the profession, and urgently address the underlying issues, particularly the unsafe workload pressure, behind the recruitment and retention crisis in general practice,” Dr Vautrey concluded.

An NHS England spokesperson told NHE: “This report rightly acknowledges the hundreds of millions of pounds of extra investment we are putting into general practice and the big difference it will make to both GPs and patients.

“We are just over one year into a five-year action plan and, as the RCGP point out, it will take time for all the effects to be felt but the measures we are working on, including expanded recruitment schemes, show how committed we are to helping GPs meet the needs of ever-rising patient demand.”

Top Image: Anthony Devlin

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