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A faulty production line

GP vacancy rates quadruple in two years

Exclusive Practices are finding it increasingly hard to recruit new GPs, with vacancy rates quadrupling in the past two years and as many as one position in twelve unfilled, a Pulse survey has discovered.

The survey of 220 practices – covering around 950 full time positions – found an average vacancy rate of 7.9%. This was almost double the 4.2% figure found in the same survey in 2011, which in itself doubled the official figure of 2.1% at the start of 2011. 

GP experts have warned the figures show a looming ‘workforce crisis’, with not enough new GPs being trained, a reluctance among sessional GPs to take on full-time positions and more GPs retiring early.

The survey also revealed that 107 of 216 respondents – just under 50% - said they were thinking of retiring early.  A further 34 were undecided, while 75 said they were not thinking of it.

The results come after the BMA warned decreasing morale, increasing stress and falling practice funding would have a ‘real impact’ on recruitment and retention in general practice in its submission on the Government’s proposed contract changes.

LMC leaders have also warned that spiralling practice workload has led to ‘shocking’ numbers of GPs who require pastoral help to cope with stress and mental health issues.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the problem has been a big concern at the BMA contract roadshows: ‘Wherever we have been, GPs have been telling us there is a recruitment and retention crisis. It is starting to happen now.’

Dr Anne Crampton, a GP partner in Berkshire, said there had been 30 applicants when they were filling a partner post three years ago, but only five for a similar post this year.

She said: ‘I don’t know why general practice seems to be so unpopular. This difficulty in recruiting came to us as a complete surprise.’

Professor Bill Irish, the chair of the GP National Recruitment Office, said: ‘Every piece of workforce data out there shows we are under-recruiting to general practice and workload is rapidly becoming more and more unsustainable so there is absolutely a workforce crisis.’

Dr Barry Lewis, a GP in Rochdale and chair of the Committee of General Practice Education Directors, said despite expanding GP training places steadily, there was a problem with a lack of applicants.

He told Pulse: ‘We have empty slots in programmes, except in London and the South East. There are not enough applicants because an excess of hospital specialty posts is still in the system. There is a significant imbalance in the workforce at junior level that has and continues to produce too many “-ologists” and too few generalists, especially GPs.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Pulse Live

Dr Tony Garelick and Dr Maja Meerten, consultant psychiatrists in psychotherapy, will be presenting a session on ‘Coping with burnout, stress and complaints in general practice’ at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.


Readers' comments (15)

  • Irrespective of the jobs market, no IMGs should enter GP training until MRCGP-CSA fiasco is sorted out. RCGP is working very hard to discourage junior drs from entering the profession.

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  • What did people really expect? You could have put a bet on at Ladbrokes's for this result! General Practice is now so unattractive because of the unrealistic expectations from patients and NHS bureaucrats imposed on the service. Whatever service we provide is never deemed enough. Perhaps a return to the pre-NHS days may help patients etc. realise just how fortunate they really are! Thank goodness the finish line/retirement for me is almost touchable after my 33 years in practice!
    Good luck to those left in the GP system for their future (assuming that there are any left in the system!)

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  • Not surprised that we are struggling to find GP to do what they were trained to do. It's seems like most of the GP's have now become managers of NHS, some gone into NHSCB and some into the DH. It may help if they all went back to looking after patients and their own surgeries.

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  • Now RCGP has suggested 4 years of training instead of the 3 year training which puts another spanner in recruitment .
    3 year training started in mid seventies and has worked well for General Practice.

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  • Perhaps it is the quintuplet whammy of CCG scrutiny, Revalidation, CCG scrutiny, increasing workload and diminishing financial returns.

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  • Eventually Government will have to come to the negotiating table and start discussing how to mend General Practice which was, and still is, the jewel in the crown of the NHS

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  • I disagree with the optimism above.

    I think eventually the government will allow private companies to import cheaper work force (e.g. GPs qualified out of UK) to serve them as AOP in primary care.

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  • The title is misleading as the situation varies widely across the country.I can understand if there is difficulty filling posts in the Shetlands or in other rural areas (that's nothing new.Its always been like that).However in cities with teaching hospitals you'll be hard pushed to find any GP vacancy or if there is one its very quickly filled with the over adundance of newly qualified GPs.Not only that but my locum GP colleagues inform me that long term locum positions have almost disappeared off the map with practices preferring to recruit salaried doctors instead (less pay for more work).

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  • cf previous comment.That s not true. My surgery is based just in between 3 well known teaching hospitals in London. We also train registrars. 2 GPs have left us last year. But we cannot find a suitable (competent and ready to commit) GP to replace them.

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  • I found the amount of bureaucracy unacceptable and am working outside NHS.

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