'If the South West is in crisis, there's not a word in the dictionary for the East Midlands'
The chair of the BMA’s GP trainees committee explains why Health Education South West’s workforce crisis summit is a step in the right direction, but more drastic action is needed
Calling this meeting is a huge step in the right direction, and tackling the workforce crisis has to be about a multi-pronged approach, looking at where the problems are, why they’re there and looking for realistic solutions.
But the absolute priority needs to be immediate, realistic, solutions; it needs to be done now. Four years is too late.
I think the fact that the South West are looking at returners and trying to see if that can address the workforce issue is a positive step.
If you look at the problems in the East Midlands, instead of reinvesting that money into returner schemes – which would get you qualified, trained GPs a lot quicker – they’ve gone down the pre-GP route which is, essentially to meet the target and not necessarily to address the workforce crisis.
But we can’t wait four or five years for more GPs, we need GPs yesterday.
So we should, absolutely, have more work like this. Because if you call the South West a crisis, I’m not sure there’s a word in the dictionary for the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
The South West is sort of bang in the middle, in terms of number of trainee places unfilled, so in some of the more seriously affected areas, they’re probably going to need more than this.
There’s huge geographic variation, the North of England tends to be a lot more affected than London areas and the South. And it’s only going to get worse as the lack of workforce and investment piles even more work onto the remaining GPs.
Health Education England will have to work with other organisations, and one of the things that has come from the approach that Professor Bill Irish has taken in the South West, is to get all the stakeholders round a table and try and sort this out.
If we just have targets set by the Government and everything needs to be about meeting targets, we’ll never get anywhere.
The approach has to be multi-pronged and, just looking at representation in the South West, I notice they’re involving the commissioners as well as LMCs – essentially the representatives of the providers- as well as educationalists and academics, to come up with realistic solutions to address the workforce crisis now.
I hope other areas do take the lead from this and organise more of these types of events to get urgent action.