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GP numbers down because of 'millennial' working hours, says training chief

Young GPs are willing to work fewer hours than their older counterparts, resulting in the equivalent of 10% fewer doctors in the workforce, the head of HEE has said.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of HEE, told delegates at NHS Confederation’s conference that the Government has had to revise down its estimates on the number of GPs in the workforce – as reported previously by Pulse.

But he added that this was partly due to the changes in working patterns for younger GPs.

Professor Cumming told delegates that GPs used to work on average the equivalent of 0.9 WTE, but this has dropped to 0.83 as more millennial GPs enter the workforce.

As a result of this, the number of full-time-equivalent doctors in the system has reduced.

He said: ‘Our workforce are choosing to work fewer hours. Part of this is because of generation Y and Z and millennials starting to come through, who are increasingly not wanting to work the same number of hours that many of the baby boomers and generation X want to work.’

The HEE chief executive said that the figures from NHS Digital mean that the NHS is getting 10% fewer clinical hours out of each GP over the past few years, which equates to 10% fewer GPs in the workforce.

Professor Cumming said: ‘Another way of putting that is you’re dealing with 10% more patients, you’re under 10% more pressure.’

The trend is likely to continue and grow, he added, ‘so we have to be mindful of that, that we aren’t getting the same number of hours out of every clinician as we used to’.

Professor Cumming also addressed the Government’s plan to increase the number of medical students by 1,500 by 2019.

He said 500 of those places have been allocated, with 1,000 more to start in 2019.

But he cautioned delegates not to get ‘carried away about the immediate benefits of that’, adding that it is ’11 years before these people are GPs’.

He said: ‘We need to do it because we need to get our workforce right but it’s not a short-term fix.’

Readers' comments (30)

  • Everyone is trying to find an answer as to why no one wants to do general practice . They are looking at the ceiling then looking at the floor but willfully ignoring the huge grey large eared animal in the middle of the room.

    It needs spelling out. No one wants to do a job that bears a suspicious resemblance to the steaming mound that has just dropped out of the elephant's backside.

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  • Ian Cumming - I sincerely hope you are reading this.

    How dare you covertly imply that the new generation of GPs does not wish to work as hard as their predecessors.

    Let me fill in the cracks with a dose of reality, shall I?

    Firstly, the job has mushroomed in volume and intensity such that no-one can cope with working 8 or 9 sessions any more. Averaging around 6 hours per session, this would mean working a 55 hour week. Do you honestly think anyone is capable of this long term?

    Secondly, if you want to look for a solution to the workforce crisis - I can give you one in a nutshell. PAY OUR INDEMNITY.

    Clinical work no longer pays. Indemnity is sky rocketing so we are all reducing our clinical sessions.

    It's so obvious it's heartbreaking

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  • Sorry pulse but unless I misunderstood the article, there is nothing in there about "shorter hours"

    GPs are doing less WTE (i.e. sessions, rather then actual hours) and you might find as we are working longer, 0.83WTE today may not be that much different to 0.9WTE 13 years ago. With 25% less pay.

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  • Come on Proff how many sessions do your do o the front line!

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  • Above is part of the reason.

    I just want more money. For me the tax system is the main disincentive to working longer. You get destroyed above £100k.

    I don't expect people to feel sorry for me but just understand why I don't do more.

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  • predecessors were good teachers.
    Young new gps are good students.
    Nothing is more precious than seeing your kids growing up and seeing your parents getting old.
    No OBE no helicopters in our profession why die young by taking extra stress and by paying extra indeminity insurence. No business class no five stars in our life, why die young by doing free charity work.

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  • Does it really matter if the next generation have different values than the one that went before it? Yes we all know (they keep reminding us) that the baby boomers worked hard. The ones I know also own massive houses, dive Audis and sent their kids to private school. They weren't being persecuted and prosecuted after seeing 40 patients with 40 different diseases in a day.

    Things change. The next generation having been priced out of nice housing whilst graduating with £100K debts have realised that quality of life matters and you won't get the time back to watch your kids grow up. Is that really so bad?

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  • The job is extremely difficult now and the pay after tax and superannuation is derisory. And yes Mr Cumming - the millleninals and Generation Y are not fooled and quite rightly are voting with their feet.

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  • Vinci Ho

    First , they branded us , the older ones , f***ing lazy . Now it is our youngsters' turn.
    Gosh , we really have a common enemy

    'In our society , those with the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. '
    1984 , George Orwell

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  • The less than good prof fails to consider the demographic changes which have altered the intensity of the work.But this non-medical doctor, whose flatulent spoutings offend the nose and the sensibilities, is a pen-pushing arse who has risen to the dizzy heights of management. A tier which is more often than not occupied by the incompetents who lack the gumption/skills/aptitude to do the kind of job we GPs do.

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