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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)

  • its not the hours its the intensity, simple example, -i recall plenty of former 5 min appointments for dyspeptic sx- no,it isn't cardiac,regular script mist mag or gaviscon,next please...now its ppi plus followup to refer for endoscopy or breath tests with explanation,plus later followup to explain why they must wean off this wonderful ppi- so safer quality/higher intensive treatment for same symptom, but needs paying for!

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  • More work into fewer sessions
    The sessions are getting longer and longer as the hospitals dump more and more

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  • What is the proportion of newly qualified GPs who are female now? Of course a lot of them are going to work less than full time, dur!

    Quite apart from the fact that a "half time" GP (like me, and I am female, and have never worked "full time" since I qualified as a GP) works a 36 hour week. If I was "full time" that would be 72 hours and it just isn't possible to do.

    "full time" in many practices is now 8 sessions so you can have a whole day to do the admin stuff without having to generate new admin by seeing patients. Otherwise we would be there till 1am every day, instead of just 10pm. (and we close the doors at 6.30, this is not even extended hours).

    But at least they have recognised there is an issue and are now planning to at least try and train more GPs to fill the gaps...

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  • AlanAlmond

    I work part time and it's isn't because I'm 'millennial' cause I'm not. It's because if I worked full time it'd be a matter of months before I was struck off for screwing up or punching someone. This is the comment of someone who gets their 'information' secondhand without real understanding. An essential quality if you want any kind of role mismanaging the NHS.

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  • yes obviously the answer!!!

    so its nothing to do with gross underfunding,insane demand, and regular beatings from lawyers politicians ,steve field after all
    silly me

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  • Scrap MDO
    Need crowns indeminity
    Scrap revalidation and cqc
    Forceful retirement of nhs managers.

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  • more than 6 sessions a week is not sustainable long term with current working practices/load/demand/intensity. And it really isn't just female docs doing reduced sessions, most blokes I know have reduced hours in last 5 year also. Comes down to work life balance, slavery or freedom.

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  • Misery or happiness ?

    We choose. Slavery is not legal at the moment

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  • Ah the good old days -yes pre-CQC doctors spent more time seeing patients, less time covering their backs and doing meaningless risk assessments.

    Consultations were quicker, demand was less, work intensity much less. Doctors told patients what to do, and patients did it or got told off!

    Doctors work very long hours now and then. Yes we have more female workforce - so none of this is a suprise.

    Whats the solution- I agree crown indemnity /or better no-fault compensation such as New Zealand http://www.acc.co.nz/
    Far too much of NHS budget spent on litigation maybe 25%- much of this going to solicitors, not patients. If we could recoup £1Bn or 2 for GP -who knows what we could do with it.




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  • there are so many responses to so many similar articles but never a response from the person who made the comment reported in pulse-is this due to lack of editorial interest?

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