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Health secretary will 'look' at setting deadline for extra 5,000 GPs in workforce plan

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said he will 'look' at including a new deadline for increasing the GP workforce by an extra 5,000 in the final version of the NHS's forthcoming workforce plan.

He came under pressure from MPs to set the deadline during a Health and Social Care Committee hearing yesterday - but stressed it was dependent on fixing workforce retention problems, not just national training budgets.

The promise to expand the GP workforce by 5,000 was originally made by Mr Hancock's predecessor Jeremy Hunt in 2015, who said it would be achieved by 2020.

But since then the number of full-time equivalent GPs has failed to increase and Mr Hancock previously told Pulse there was no specific date for when the Government would meet the target - though hoped it would be ‘sooner’ than in the next five years.

In May, Prime Minister Theresa May committed to recruiting the extra GPs 'as soon as possible'.

Conservative MP and select committee member Andrew Selous asked the health secretary yesterday why the NHS long-term plan - a strategy for the next 10 years - had not included a new deadline.

Mr Hancock responded by saying he would consider whether the final version of the accompanying workforce strategy - known as the People Plan - could feature a deadline.

The health secretary said: 'Well, why don’t I look and see if we can put a date on it in the final People Plan that comes out. It will be dependent on the Health Education England budget. It's also dependent on how quickly we can fix the problems that are driving retention.'

The health secretary also said GP numbers had risen, 'albeit only by 300'. According to NHS Digital data, between March 2018 and March 2019 the headcount of all GPs in England - including registrars and locums - increased by 350. But the number of full-time equivalent fully-qualified GPs dropped by 441 during that period.

He said: 'The good news is that the latest figures on the number of GPs are rising, albeit only by 300 and we’ve got a long long way to go but at least we’re now moving in the right direction.

'If we look back to the GP Forward View and what happened afterwards, I think that the number one thing is that the focus was understandably on hiring new GPs. That has been successful. There has been a record number of GPs in training – 3,473.

'So there was a successful focus on new GPs. I think there wasn’t enough focus on retention – both retention in terms of people doing a full week's work and in terms of keeping people in general practice and in general practice in the NHS.'

He added: 'The NHS People Plan focuses on training new staff, including new GPs, on recruiting from overseas and retention. Hence why I reacted the way I did to the initial questions about the people plan because the retention piece is about far more than just the numbers coming through, it's about the overall culture and what it's like to work in the NHS and dealing with some of the pressures.'

Mr Selous also asked if the Department of Health and Social Care has a target for the number of overseas GPs recruited in the meantime.

Mr Hancock said the target of 5,000 GPs was an overall goal, including overseas recruitment.

He said: 'No we don’t have a target for the share between recruitment, overseas and domestic training. We have an overall goal of 5,000 more than the 2015 baseline.'

The final People Plan is expected to follow the Government's spending review later this year.

The interim version, published last month, outlined the NHS's commitment to promote portfolio careers to boost GP workforce.

Readers' comments (8)

  • NO! It is worong to say GP numbers have 'hardly increased'. We've had year on year decreases: Net 2000 less WTE since the promise unless like NHS digital you include FY/GPST! 50% GP retire early and many more are moving to part time.

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  • I'm not convinced getting Hancock to "look" at the paperwork is gonna achieve much. Maybe if one of his advisors reads it to him his dyslexia could be circumvented.I resent his comment re doing a full weeks work- this shows he has no grasp of what the job entails and the solid graft done by those who are regarded as part-time, where 6 sessions done properly is damn close to full-time in terms of hours spent being slowly destroyed by the job.

    A government which doesn't care cannot help but push people into self-preservation mode, and rightly so. This job cannot seriously be regarded as a vocation any longer.

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  • Health Secretary will "look" at setting expiry date on food vouchers used to pay staff:

    I wouldn't listen to someone who is having to resort using food stamps instead of money to pay employees:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/09/nurses-will-offered-supermarket-discounts-persuade-stay-nhs/

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  • F@@@wit.The cream rises to the top they say, not in the septic tank of politics, there are only a few things rise to the top in septic tanks,turds and fatty scum.The last few month in westminster prove it is indeed a septic tank and those at the top are exactly what rises.

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  • Only a Corbynista approach will work - forced labour camps for GPs and no retirement allowed.

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  • Tell the CQC they have done their work and to come back in 10 years. Make clear that NICE guidelines are guidelines and can only be interpreted in a fully funded system. Stop moronic CCG meddling and fully understand that regulation causes more problems than trust.
    Sort out pensions and surgery leases and recognise in pay that we work 12 hour days.
    And try to make a really big effort to understand that reorganisation is never ever the answe.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Tuesday

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  • It was looked many many times. Keep looking does not achieve anything, especially when he may not be in government.

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