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GPs go forth

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Pulse has reported there there are concerns around the accuracy of these data, and the GPC has called for them to be withdrawn.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)

  • This is hilarious - not because it shows competence, or good news, but because if provides clear proof that HMG have been as blinded and utterly out-played as we have by them. The Government think that starving the proffession of GPs will enable them to privatise it and shift it into the big American dream. Well done.

    But what they don't realise is that the Americans know that GPs are the most costly individuals, and the most efficient way of delivering care. By removing them you can pay a lot less, and yet generate tons of rework activity with enormous additional charges - so you increase profit both ways.

    What is more, we'll use CQC and scale to ensure we have only a few providers who the market is solely dependent on. Then they will be deemed 'too big to fail' and allowed to get away with murder and be bailed out for it - much like city financial institutions.

    The lunatics are really running the asylum now.

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  • @ 6.40pm

    Because the BMA has been hijacked by one eyed lefties who think its the BMA's role to campaign for the NHS at any cost, environmental issues, sugar in fizzy drinks etc NOT to be a doctors unions even though it is paid for by doctors.

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  • Ivan Benett

    Whoever said I should acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me. I acknowledge, never dobted these comments pages! Not everyone thought the NHS was a good idea when we started it!

    The comment from the doctor who has been in practice for 30 yrs, well so have I, and remember working weekends without a break, getting up in the night to visit and doing a surgery the next day. Being at the side of people through the night in their last hours, and helping make cups of tea while women laboured all day. Claiming money through the old 'red book' system. Assistants being exploited. 24/7/365 responsibility. Those were the days! That. Was a different planet.

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  • I think Ivan has made a valid point - it's about vocation. We need to get back to 24/7/365 responsibility - it's the only way to make General Practice credible again. I think that sadly a lot of doctors regard General Practice as a career and feel they can work part-time, opt-out of things, go on holiday, have a family etc. We need to target recruitment to let the future generation know that General Practice is a 24/7/365 vocation not a career. They need to forget about pay, family life, or themselves and devote themselves to their patients. I'm sure Ivan would gladly work for free if it would help the cause but he like many others is constrained by being forcibly paid a salary. We should also look at cutting pay and changing T&Cs as that saving could go back into the NHS to pay for badly needed management consultants and more analysis of ways we can re-organize the NHS again preferably by folks who don't work in the front line as they know how best to do things. Thank goodness we have a conservative government who are already looking into this, I look forward to the forced contract changes that the right honorable Jeremy Hunt will impose - I am sure in the end the BMA will let it happen as they know not to rock the boat.

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  • Anonymous | Salaried GP | 31 July 2015 11:39pm

    I don't think 24/7/365 is enough. That's far too slack.

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  • Ivan

    whilst I agree that you are entitled to your opinion, and that opinion is welcome here, I disagree with your interpretation.

    This report is not a "great start" as you have suggested. It is simply the govt trying to sidestep the headline generating, public perception damaging problem of GP recruitment.

    It is a start, but the whole situation could be avoided if primary care was treated with some respect.

    Unfortunately that feeling is not felt throughout the country.

    Greater Manchester has not fared particularly well, with this year's recruitment less than 70% across the deanery.

    Furthermore, your primary care "standards" seems to be only adding further tickboxes, replacing the awful LES and DES already in place.

    Yes we are thinking negatively. However this is not unexpected and until there is understanding from CCG/govt level, there won't be any enthusiasm or cooperation from ground floor level.

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