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Act to stop GP exodus

With so many other calamities and catastrophes to deal with, the last thing on the Government's mind at the moment will be a potential crisis in retention of GPs.

After all, getting GP numbers up has been one of its success stories.

But that crisis is about to hit in the next couple of years. And ministers need to focus on it now.

Our Contract Year 3 survey (page 1) results indicate that 17.5 per cent of GPs plan to retire or quit by 2007/8. That's more than 7,300 GPs.

To put that in context, around 700 GPs usually retire each year. To have 10 times that figure leave would undo all of the last eight years' worth of increases in GP numbers.

Although the scale of the problem is a shock, it has been an open secret that many GPs were hanging on for a pension windfall from the new contract.

The dynamising factor for 2003/4, revealed this week to be 12.9 per cent (page 3), shows precisely why they are doing so.

Yet despite plenty of forewarning, the Government has adopted a head-in-the-sand approach to the problem.

Policy U-turn needed

Registrar places are being cut. Fees for certificates are being increased. The flexible careers scheme has been axed.

We said last week it was vital the Government focus on recruitment and retention of GPs, or risk damaging the long-term health of primary care.

The scale of the damage that will be done unless it reverses its current policies is now apparent.

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