This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

The waiting game

One in five practices abandon recruitment due to 'staggering' shortage of GPs

Exclusive Almost one in five practices has had to abandon searching for a new GP as vacancy rates have hit their highest ever, a shocking Pulse survey has revealed.

Pulse’s annual practice vacanies survey was answered by 860 GPs and reveals that 12.2% of all positions are currently vacant – an increase from the 11.7% reported at the same time last year.

More worryingly, 158 said they had to give up recruiting a GP in the past 12 months after unsuccessful attempts.

The survey - the only longitudinal data available on this subject - also reveals that the average time taken to recruit a GP partner has lengthened by almost a month over the past year.

GP leaders say that the increase in vacancy rates is ‘staggering’, and that the lack of staff are heaping pressure on other GPs, with practices having to resort to hiring non-GPs to fill the gaps.

GPs have also reported having to close down their practices after failing to recruit a partner.

Pulse has run its vacancy survey since 2011, when the rate of positions vacant was 2.1%, which has rapidly increased in the years since.

NHS England’s ‘GP Forward View’ last year attempted to address the GP recruitment crisis through a £500m emergency fund, that was in part used to offer incentives for GPs to remain in post, return to the UK and work in under-doctored areas.

However, official figures from NHS Digital revealed that the number of full-time equivalent GPs actually decreased in the six months after the announcement, which hasn’t yet had the desired effect.

Dr Charlotte Ferriday, a GP in Devon, said that her practice was forced to close after its sole partner had a heart attack and wanted to come back as a salaried GP.

She said: ‘We asked all locums and acquaintances about possibly coming to work at the surgery as a partner. We advertised on the Devon LMC website. The practice attempted a merger with a bigger practice that fell through.

‘No-one wanted to be the sole partner at a small practice of 2,800 patients. It is hard work to run a practice and much harder doing it as a sole partner.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘The high number of positions vacant and one in five practices abandoning their search) is another sign of the recruitment crisis with many practices struggling to find GPs.

‘This is adding to the pressure of the remaining staff. Some practices are looking to recruit therapists, pharmacists and other health professionals but of course they are not a replacement for a GP. There needs to be a real step-change in recruitment initiatives to ease the pressure on GPs.’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: ’We know that practices across the country are finding it really difficult to recruit GPs to fill vacant posts, and the degree to which this problem has increased over the last six years is staggering. In the most severe cases, not being able to recruit has forced practices to close, and this can be a devastating experience for the patients and staff affected, and the wider NHS.’


p22 june 2017 data lowdown final

p22 june 2017 data lowdown final

Readers' comments (24)


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @ Anonymous

    If you look at the links I think you may have a better understanding of what I mean. By the way have a look at the GPs charges, which are considerably more than what any NHS GP gets. However at the same time her patients are still saving money:

    Member Monthly Yearly (save 10%)
    One Adult* $54 $583
    Each Child 0-18 (or 26)* $39 $429
    Family 2 adults/2 kids* $159 $1,785
    Each additional child * $10 $109
    Primary care for a family of four is $4.92/day, less than the cost of a sandwich!

    *Per visit charge (in-office, phone, video) $20 adults and kids over 6, $10 kids 6 and under. At least one parent or legal guardian must be enrolled with children from the same family

    Basically her system decreases the money going to private insurance companies where they pay their executives up to $60 Million a year (inc bonuses)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • pay them (enough) and they will come.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • According to BBC radio 4 this morning which covered this article, NHSE does not recognise the figure and it's irrelevant as it is only a small number in the survey.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What's "staggering" about this? We've been bleating about it for ages.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If you want to know why you need to exclude insurance companies , read The American GPs are leaving as fast as we are.
    They are disillusioned and ground down by bureaucracy and having to code and fight for every bit of funding

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Spuds

    @Last man standing-

    Do you know where the caps lock button is? It's on the left hand side, about halfway up.

    You're welcome.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @ faithful hound

    I agree. The bureaucracy that GPs face in the States is absolutely horrendous, but bureaucracy is also now becoming a major issue in the UK as well. Look how difficult it is to refer patients. One has to check all the different referral protocols and do this and that and this and that before referral. Look at QoF. That is only going to get worse when big insurance shortly takes over. Remember money is sticky. That is why big insurance tries to pay clinicians as little as possible - more money for them from the affordable care act premiums that people are forced to pay in the States. Trump is not changing the AFA much, if and when his changes come in. Before people say the States does not apply to us It is important to realise that is the model of health care delivery that the Tories prefer. Simon Stephens came to run the NHS direct from United Health, the biggest private Health Insurer / semi-provider / employer in the world.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    1. is it safe to extrapolate the data from the annual survery? i.e. how representative of the situation is it?

    2. there are a lot of locums (i'm one) so is the issue actually that the t&c's on offer are so bad that no sensible GP will touch a partnership/salaried post rather than an absolute lack of GPs?

    3. a lot of GPs are part-time clinical (for good reasons)

    wouldn't the solution be to make the job more attractive to those of us who could take on partnerships or salaried posts?

    if the GPC were actually bothered on negotiating a decent contract you may find that a lot of locums would rush to be partners.

    sadly i fear the solution will be to go after locums to make it so difficult to be a locum that our only choice will be to go salaried or leave the profession.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • this was covered by the Guardian

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say