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More GPs needed to ‘keep NHS on its feet’ as 600 practices face closure

Primary medical care will be short-staffed and unsafe for patients unless more GPs are recruited to address the shortfall in the service, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said, as it warned that nearly 600 practices are currently at risk of closure.

The RCGP estimates that the number of full-time equivalent GPs across the UK has now fallen to just over 35,500, from almost 36,000 in 2013-14.

It predicts that there could be a shortage of 9,940 GPs across the UK by 2020, leading to 594 practices which are now predominantly staffed by GPs aged over 55 closing as doctors retire.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “It is imperative that we recruit huge numbers of medical students and foundation doctors into general practice in order to keep the NHS on its feet.

“If we fail, there will be too few GPs to go round, practices will close, and patient safety in general practice will clearly be at risk.”

Myth-busting 'Think GP'

The RCGP has today launched a new video and guide, both called ‘Think GP’, intended to encourage new doctors to work in general practice. The video and guide, aimed at medical students, foundation doctors and sixth form students, will strive to address the misconception that the role of a GP is “somehow run-of-the-mill, with family doctors simply treating coughs and colds”.

Dr Baker continued: “GPs look after patients throughout their lives – from cradle-to-grave – and are an important part of local communities, in both urban and rural settings. They are the bedrock of the NHS, and they look after the ‘whole person’, having to understand the patient’s physical, psychological and social circumstances.

“TV programmes, like Holby City and Casualty, might like to show hospitals as the only exciting places to be a doctor but the reality is very much different.  In fact, as NHS England says: ‘There is arguably no more important job in modern Britain than that of the family doctor’.

“As time progresses, a career as a GP will become more and more intellectually and medically challenging, diverse and fulfilling. GPs will have portfolio careers heading multi-disciplinary teams, leading work in areas from geriatrics to neurology, running ‘in-reach’ to hospitals and ‘outreach’ to patients’ homes.”

NHS England recently launched the GP Forward View, with commitments including recruiting 5,000 additional doctors and investing £2.4bn a year in general practice, in order to address the workforce crisis facing the sector.

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