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Independents' Day

DH 'told workforce review to ignore GP numbers'

Exclusive A major review of the primary care workforce was asked not to make any recommendations on GP numbers, as the Government has claimed it was not needed.

The chair of the review has told Pulse he was told not to focus on GP staffing levels following discussions between the Department of Health and Health Education England, who commissioned the report.

This was despite the health secretary at the RCGP conference in October last year promising the review would be an ‘independent study’ on what GPs were required ‘area by area’.

The DH told Pulse that staffing data were published last month on the NHS England website - although Pulse has reported there there are concerns around the accuracy of these data, and the GPC has called for them to be withdrawn.

Mr Hunt made a pre-election commitment that a Conservative government would create an additional 5,000 new GPs – a commitment he has since rolled back on, saying it is now only the ‘maximum’ that will be recruited.

The Primary Care Workforce Commission report, released last week, made a ‘note’ of this committment, but made no concrete recommendations on the GP workforce.

Instead, it largely focussed on recommending other non-GP roles - such as physician associates or pharmacists - who could ease the pressure on GP workloads.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, the chair of the commission, Professor Martin Roland, professor of health sciences at the University of Cambridge, told Pulse that the number of GPs was ‘never in our terms of reference’.

He said: ‘There was a lot of discussion about whether at ought to be, or not, and a decision was made – not by me, between Health Education England and DH - that that was not going to be part of our terms of reference.’

He added that simply recruiting 5,000 more GPs was not enough, and that they should be targeted at underdoctored areas and given more than financial incentives to stay.

He said: ‘That means providing doctors with a feeling that they will get good working lives, that they won’t be isolated, that they’ll be supported and there will be good ongoing education and opportunities.’

When questioned by Pulse, Health Education England said the review had deliberately not been tasked with looking at GP numbers.

A spokesperson said: ‘It is important to look first at the new models of care that will deliver services that patients will want and need in the future before we look at specific numbers of any part of the workforce.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘As part of the secretary of state’s speech on general practice, clinical staffing data was published on the NHS England website last month detailing for the first time the number of GPs per area. Further work will follow.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, told Pulse: ‘The promise made by Jeremy Hunt wasn’t followed through in practice. The data he wanted hasn’t really existed since the days of the Medical Practice Committee that was disbanded years ago.’

Readers' comments (36)

  • I agree with John Glasspool and Sanjeev Juneja. Ivan Bennett deserves credit for sticking to his vision and making his arguments thoughtfully and critically.

    At least he has engaged in debate with jobbing GPs which is something the chairs of the RCGP and GPC never seem to do.

    Whilst Ivan hasn't won me over with his vision of future general practice, I value an alternative opinion. We are not robots and don't all have the same view. His enthusiasm (if taken at face value) is genuinely refreshing.

    Ultimately, GPs are being herded into a future that is the assembly line of medicine. It will affect the optimists as much as the pessimists. Why must the debate always be a) accept and embrace government changes b) resist and keep the status quo?

    Just once it would be nice if there was serious analysis of option c) which would be to have semi-private NHS primary care.

    Disillusioned GP Partner

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  • What planet is Ivan on?
    GP is most certainly NOT alive and well on the whole. Please take note this is an opinion based on observation and this finger in the air method should NOT be used by Government when figuring out the future needs of our workforce.
    Can you at least acknowledge, Ivan, that many GPs will disagree with what you are saying based on their current experiences? Ideally a non political answer would be preferable.

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  • GP is all hunky-dory........

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  • exactly correct 1 .34 pm...the idea of a vision always suggest delusional tendencies...hallucination is more like it.
    Howver wacky and lacking in pragmatism Tory policy is, there is some vested interest who will support it... the memory of those fellas rowing a sinking boat on the Thames comes to mind....even when it was going down...on they went

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  • Just change the GP contract to payment per consultation like everywhere else in the world. No other country runs primary care on a fixed budget. Why are we the only country in the world that has such a crazy system that can offload huge quantities of work on to primary care for no extra payment. This is what the GPC should be campaigning for.

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  • Vinci Ho

    'Everyone is drunk and I alone am sober.' A Chinese saying. Then again , is it actually the other way round?
    May be this is part of a political mission:...

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I always say , ' it is a fine line between poiitically correct diplomacy and dangerously flawed hypocrisy.'

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  • /Hi Ivan Would be good for you to come to my practice.I have been a GP for 30 years and have seen the erosion of general practice. When I first joined very few patients went to hospital-something the government wants to avoid but this has to be paid as it was in the 1980s with an allowance for taking on a new partner which was not a one off payment. This payment meant we could take on more partners and patients would have better access and avoid hospital admissions. More and more young doctors only want to do locum work as the PARTNER in general practice is no longer valued. Think about it!!!

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  • come on guys leave ivan alone!!!

    yes you might not agree with what he says but I like seeing his comments on here, they usually make me laugh, in fact what I actually do is when I see his pic on the comments section, I put my hand over the comment and try to guess what he'll come out with next and more often than not im right!!!

    its like my dose of fox news, it makes me laugh. it sure beats smacking your head against a brick wall whenever you see a comment from mr hunt on the nhs!!

    give the guy a break; every profession needs a jester, and hes got the guts to come on here as himself!!

    we may not agree with what he says but I for one would miss the controversy he sparks if he left..... so lets keep him here

    ivan mate keep it coming!!!!!!!!!

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  • Vinci Ho

    'Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren’t you? Huh? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.'
    Who said this?

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