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Almost half of GPs have vacancies in their practice, BMA warns

Access to general practice is worsening, doctors have warned, as almost half of GPs tell BMA they had a doctor vacancy.

A BMA survey of GPs saw 47% of respondents report a doctor vacancy in their practice. Out of these, close to three quarters (73%) said at least one vacancy had gone unfilled for six months or more.

The findings form part of a larger BMA survey of 900 doctors, including 265 GPs, focusing on the workforce situation across primary and secondary care.

It also revealed that 71% of all respondents felt that access to GP and primary care services has worsened over the past 12 months.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the dire situation meant 'many practices have given up advertising for GPs as they’ve had little or no response to previous attempts to recruit'.

His words echo the findings of Pulse's latest vacancy investigation - based on responses from around 900 GPs - which last year found that almost one in five practices has had to abandon searching for a new GP as vacancy rates hit their highest ever (12.2% of all GP positions in the country).

Instead, Dr Vautrey said, practices are turning their hope other healthcare professionals 'such as more nurses or pharmacists' - promoted by NHS England in last year's GP Forward View as a means to reduce GP workload - but he said 'even this can be difficult in some areas of the country'.

Dr Vautrey said: 'These levels of GP vacancies are having a major impact on patients as it makes it harder and harder to get an appointment with a practice when they need to be seen and it’s also having a major impact on the remaining practice staff members as they struggle to maintain adequate services to their local population with too few permanent members of the team to deliver this.'

He warned that the situation of short-staffed practices in turn added to the workload of existing staff 'with the risk that they themselves become overwhelmed and are forced to leave'.

'Ultimately if this spiral downwards is not addressed it leads to practices closing.'

This comes as a Pulse investigation into practice closures last year revealed that more than a quarter of a million patients in England were forced to move GP surgery in 2016.

Dr Vautrey said: 'What’s needed is a real commitment to long-term recurrent funding for community and general practice services so a clear signal is sent to young doctors and other healthcare professionals that the NHS is really committed to resolving this problem and that the future will be better than it is now.'

The BMA's survey further revealed that:

  • 67% of respondents thought that the delivery urgent and emergency care services had worsened;
  • 72% felt that mental health provision has worsened;
  • 86% thought that NHS financial sustainability has worsened.

Meanwhile, as for hospital workforce, more than seven in 10 hospital doctors (71%) reported rota gaps in their departments.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'These figures highlight doctors’ concerns about a decline in services and widespread staff shortages. As doctors, we want to be able to provide the best possible care for patients, but access and quality of care are being affected by staffing and financial pressures.

'The result is delays in patients being treated, and doctors juggling large numbers of patients to compensate for staff shortages. This isn’t safe for patients and it isn’t sustainable for doctors.

'With pressures rising year-on-year, we are calling on politicians to act now. We urgently need a long-term solution to the staffing and funding pressures facing the NHS, otherwise it simply won’t be able to provide the safe and high-quality care that patients deserve and doctors want to be able to deliver.'

Survey results

GP vacancies:

  • Current vacancies in the practice in which they work - 47% (out of which 73% said at least one vacancy unfilled for six months or more);
  • No vacancies in the practice in which they work - 53%

Access to GP and primary care services, over the past 12 months:

  • Has significantly improved - 1%
  • Has slightly improved - 5%
  • Has stayed the same - 23%
  • Has become signficantly worse - 35%

Source: BMA survey of 900 doctors, including 265 GPs, conducted online between 29 November and 19 December.

 

Readers' comments (18)

  • Dear Nigel,
    Where has the article on Babylon costing their host CCG £150,000 in 2 months gone?
    Regards
    Paul C

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  • Try BMJ

  • We need our European friends.we need to stop brexit.

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  • A Doctor in her mid thirties approached me yesterday to sound me out about being a partner.
    And for the first time I found that I really couldn't any longer recommend it. The days are now 13 hours long and the stress of keeping a badly funded organisation on the road is intense.
    Young doctors can see this and it is no wonder that they locum, take part time salaried positions or just wander off. The BMA can continue to bleat but it doesn't alter the fact that without actions the end is going to come very soon.

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  • MARKET FORCES- CONSERVATIVES AND EVEN A LABOUR MARKET ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPT.
    PRICES OF SCARCE COMMODITIES GO UP NOT DOWN.

    Time to sue the government for contributing to healthworker illness and absenteeism.

    Locum charges are about to explode!!- stuffing the locums' mouths with gold will end GP partnership overnight! - Just what the twats ordered

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  • You need to pay EU GPs the same as British GPs. It's no good halving an MPIG of a Practice the moment NHSE figures out that the English GP replacement is from EU. This has been going on at least since 2010 in Medway. No to apartheid!

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  • ?MPIG has nothing to do with who is in the practice. It's calculated on patient population demographics etc.

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  • Dear Nigel,
    Cheers.
    Regards
    Paul C

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  • Morale flagging

    look what exactly are all these empty vacancies .... Give us new gps the opportunities of the past .... i.e a true chance of being a partner in a practice with other partners...

    No one wants to be the last man standing scapegoat partner
    No one wants to do the work of a partner with all the added responsibility whilst getting paid half as a salaried Dr
    No one wants to work for silent partners who replace themselves or a spouse with two salaried doctors
    Drs are fed up and disillusioned with the salaried with a view to partnership which never actually materialises
    or conveniently leads to end of contract

    Enforce a fixed number of partners per set number of patients and the situation will improve

    If you do not want to share the cake
    then we do not want to share the workload either

    Never underestimate the other guys greed

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  • Morale flagging

    No one wanst to be used and abused in our salaried roles .. they are going unfilled ...
    boo hoo..
    When it all gos private hopefully we will be able to define our own roles more failrly
    PROVIDED WE ARE NOT ENSLAVED TO CORPORATIONS

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  • Morale flagging

    NHS england states in response to all this that they are on track to bring through the highest number of gp trainees .... oh so the cavalry of inexperienced will be coming at some point? at this rate they will have nothing to join... if the job is not supported then no one will want to stay and the newbies will burn out very fast ...

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