This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

GP numbers will fall 7,000 short within five years despite increasing trainees

GP numbers will fall ‘substantially short of demand’, even though there is a major focus on increasing GP trainee numbers by 2024, posing a 'fundermental threat' to primary care, according to a major new report.

The report - published today by three major health think tanks – analysed NHS workforce gaps and found the health service will have 7,000 fewer FTE GPs than needed within five years, not taking into account the ‘growing expectations’ placed on GPs by the long-term plan.

This major workforce shortage is a ‘fundamental threat’ to the sustainability of primary care, and a 'new model of general practice' is the ‘only way forward’, the report said.

The document, released by The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund, and Nuffield Trust, outlines a series of policy recommendations for the upcoming NHS workforce implementation plan, focusing on nursing and general practice, where the problems are ‘particularly severe’.

The recommendations include adding an extra £900m per year by 2023/24 into the budget of Health Education England, to enable the workforce to grow.

The report said: ‘The NHS in England has 2,500 fewer FTE GPs than it needs this year, and a projected gap of 7,000 FTE GPs within five years if current trends hold.

‘These figures do not take account of the growing expectations of general practice as underlined in the NHS long-term plan. Unless action is taken, shortages of this scale represent a fundamental threat to the sustainability of primary care in England.’

It continued: ‘The only way forward is to make substantial progress towards a new model of general practice with an expanded multidisciplinary team drawing on the skills of other health care professionals.

‘The new GP contract and the NHS long-term plan support this shift, but the key issue is the speed, consistency and quality of implementation across the NHS.

‘The workforce implementation plan needs to clearly outline how this model will be rolled out safely across the country, and at pace.’

The new five-year GP contract, released this year, includes funding for 22,000 additional practice staff –pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates and social prescribing workers – by 2023/24.

Nuffield Trust director of workforce strategy Candace Imison said: ‘The imminent workforce plan needs to mark the moment we stop treating the staffing of health and social care as a second order issue.

‘Our recommendations might seem radical, but the time for tinkering at the margins has passed.

‘I’m especially worried that while medical and technological advances mean staff need to adapt and learn more quickly than ever, we have slashed the funds that support this. If any of our lofty aspirations about better outcomes and digital technology are to become a reality, we need to get the budget for developing skills at least back to where it was – and that means a fourfold increase by 2023/24.’

King’s Fund chief executive Richard Murray said: ‘Without radical action to expand the NHS workforce, there is a very real risk that some of the extra funding pledged by the Government will go unspent, waiting lists will continue to grow and important improvements to services like mental health and general practice will fail.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘We agree with the writers of this report that the GP workforce faces significant challenges but we disagree that these are insurmountable.

‘We must not, under any circumstances, give up on our aims and endeavours to build the GP workforce – achieving these is vital for the future of the NHS, and patient care.

She continued: ‘We are extremely grateful to the hard work, skill and dedication of members of the wider practice team - they are pivotal in supporting us to deliver care to over a million patients every day - but they are not GPs and must never be seen as direct substitutes or used to "fill the gaps" long-term where numbers of GPs are insufficient.

Professor Stokes-Lampard added that it is ‘imperative’ that the upcoming NHS workforce strategy not only include plans to expand the multi-disciplinary team practices, but also ‘comprehensive plans to further boost GP recruitment, make it easier for trained GPs to return to NHS practice, and to keep existing GPs in the profession longer’.


Are you looking for a new GP job? Search through 100s of vacancies on Pulse GP Jobs, our job site designed to help GPs find their next career move.

Related images

  • empty waiting room 3x2
gp heroes nominations2020 180x250px

Readers' comments (17)

  • The New contract for GPs seems like more of the same ,increased liability and work load for poor renumeration, not a good recipe for retention. Being the back stop for a shed load of noctors as well as doing the day job is not fun.I would say this is an under estimation of the exodus.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The day job becomes unbearable if noctors take on all the simple stuff. Its soul destroying work seeing non stop difficult heart sink type cases and no one doing this would be able to work 9 sessions a week. The job is OK if there are enough of us and the last 60 years are proof of that.
    This plan will be a disaster I'm afraid.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Crap jobs with poor pay difficult to fill and keep filled. A real puzzle that needs lots of studies,investigations, committees, reviews as to what should be done

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Took Early Retirement

    Good- let it all fall apart.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • David Banner

    The recruitment crisis has destroyed the traditional Primary Care model of multiple GPs working alongside a few nurses. By necessity surviving partners either squander their profits on ruinous locums, or make do and mend by employing a variety of noctors. Unsurprisingly nobody in their right mind would choose such a poisonous career path any more, whilst those trapped in partnership dream of escape to retirement, locum or salaried sanctuary.
    These promises of bread tomorrow ring hollow after Hunt’s infamously dissembling “5000 more GPs” sick joke, and even if delivered will be far too late to heal the mortal wounds inflicted on Primary Care in the last decade.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The only good news is I will have left, and no multi-disciplinary nonsense is not the answer! Underskilled and lacking in knowledge to assess undifferentiated illness is a recipe for disaster. WE NEED MORE GPs, simple.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • London tube drivers earn £80K+ with overtime which is still less hours than FT GP partner. I left at 50 and top up pension with internet business 4-5hrs daily and no-one expects me to work nights and weekends as well. Good luck.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Pay is too low and made far worse with unnecessary paperwork (CQC, revalidation, crap open ended contract). They need to move to payment per activity and fund it properly or risk it gradually fading away. I do not think anything will change until we get to the point of 5000 less GPs and some areas having no qualified doctor cover - then patients will really start to moan.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Thank God for this sort of thing, let's have more of this sort of thing, this sort of thing is the answer:
    "The Health Foundation, The King’s Fund, and Nuffield Trust, outlines a series of policy recommendations"

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is Hunt's stated penance. He wanted 5000 more to undergo his penance. I am glad there is 7000 less for his belief that we earn half a million for frequenting undulating fairways.
    An unlimited Contract that abuses its Contractors deserves to fail.It is natural justice that unremitting and undeserved penance finally gets rid of those sinners deserving of penance. At least, the DM would have achieved its goal of getting rid of all those lazy GPs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say