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GP hits out at plan over asylum seekers' care

New GPs are shunning full-time principal positions in favour

of salaried or part-time roles,

Government figures reveal.

Statistics released by the Department of Health showed a total headcount increase of 529 GPs in the first three months of 2004.

But only seven of the doctors were whole-time equivalent unrestricted principals.

Overall, 401 whole-time NHS Plan GPs were recruited. Of these, 394 either took a salaried job, a restricted principal, assistant, or 'PMS other' role or a post through the GP returners and flexible career schemes. The figures also showed a fall in the estimated three-month vacancy rate from 3.4 to 3 per cent over the same period.

GPs said younger doctors were shying away from long-term commitments and were waiting to see how the new contract settled down.

Devon LMC chief officer Dr Peter Jolliffe said some younger GPs did not want to be involved in running a business. Uncertainty over family members' jobs and a desire for greater flexibility in careers were also factors, he added.

Dr Tina Ambury, a member of the RCGP's workforce committee, said the figures showed many more GPs were needed: 'The GP workforce is not even being replaced like for like, let alone increasing in numbers.'

The GPC also cast doubt on the validity of the figures.

GPC deputy-chair Dr Laurence Buckman said they 'did not appear to have a basis in statistically verifiable fact'. He added: 'Anyway, you can have 10 GPs who do one session a week, and that adds up to only one whole-time equivalent.'

Dr Phil Yates, a GP in Bristol and a national clinical adviser to the National Primary and Care Trust Development Programme, added: 'I can't see that there is any sort of national census on GP numbers – there is no national collection mechanism that is unified across the country.'

The department claimed it had surpassed its NHS Plan target to recruit 2,000 GPs by 660. It also vigorously defended the figures.

A spokesman said: 'Our verification methods are rigorously maintained, thoroughly enforced and the resulting

data is robust, sound and

reliable.'

By Nerys Hairon

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