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05.04.16

Almost 90% of GPs struggle to find staffing cover

Difficulties finding locum cover affect almost 90% of GP practices, a new survey from the British Medical Association (BMA) warns.

Among the respondents, 46% of GPs said they struggle to find cover to plug staffing gaps and 40% said they occasionally have issues.

In the south and south west, the number of GPs frequently having difficulties finding locum cover rose to 61% and 57%.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said: “These results show that many GP practices are struggling to find cover to plug the staffing gaps they face and that the vast majority are having to rely routinely on temporary cover.

“The need for locums can be generated by illness, maternity leave or other factors in the workforce and GP locums do an outstanding job of stepping in to provide care to patients at short notice. But increasingly GP practices are facing longer term vacancies because of the recruitment crisis gripping general practice. If a GP locum cannot be found in these situations many practices struggle to offer enough appointments to meet their patients’ needs. This comes at a time when many GP practices are buckling under the pressure of rising patient demand, stagnating funding and unresourced work being moved from hospitals into the community.

“In this climate, it is clear there are no longer enough GP locums to cover the widening gaps in the GP workforce. This is undoubtedly adding to the incredible pressure on GP services which has left it in a state of emergency and struggling to provide even basic care to patients.”

He added that the government needs to begin addressing this crisis and deliver its promised support package for general practice, adding that there needs to be a long-term, well-financed plan to prevent GP services from collapsing.

Another recent BMA survey found a growing staffing crisis in GP surgeries, with 37.3% of GPs planning to retire and 8.6% planning to leave general practice.

The BMA has launched a new campaign, Urgent Prescription for General Practice, calling on the government to deliver a comprehensive rescue practice for GP services and providing advice for practices on managing their workload and working collaboratively.

(Image c. Anthony Devlin)

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