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Independents' Day

Hunt confirms rollback on pre-election pledge of 5,000 new GPs

Jeremy Hunt has put more distance between the Government and its pre-election pledge to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020, as first revealed by Pulse, saying today that the figure was the ‘maximum’ that was achievable.

Speaking at the Health+Care show in London today, Mr Hunt said that the Department of Health was increasingly looking at the alternative primary care roles, such as physician associates and nurse practitioners to provide a sustainable workforce.

This comes after Pulse revealed on Monday that the secretary of state had already said the acute workforce crisis in some parts of the country meant that the Government would have to be ‘flexible’ about its 5,000 GPs pledge.

He told delegates at today’s conference that the DH now recognised that it may not have the time to train sufficient GPs, or persuade former GPs back to the workforce in order to meet its target.

The health secretary said a workforce study was under way to assess the extent of other primary care professionals in the NHS.

Mr Hunt said: ‘I talked about recruiting 5,000 more GPs on Friday. In truth, we think that is the maximum that we would be able to increase the GP workforce by, over the next five years. Given the time it takes to train new GPs; given the potential number of people who we can persuade to come back into the profession.’

Pulse reported this week that the health secretary had modified the Government’s expectations in an off-camera Q&A immediately after launching the ‘new deal’ for general practice and committing to 5,000 more GPs,

He said last Friday: ‘We’ve said that we want the overall increase in the primary care workforce to be around 10,000, of which we anticipate around half will be GPs. But we are leaving some flexibility because in some parts of the country it is very hard to recruit GPs.’

However, DH spokespersons denied that this represented a watering down of the Conservatives’ pledge.

GP leaders warned pre-election that pledges of 5,000 new GPs were not achievable without a Back to the Future Delorean’.

And Pulse has already revealed huge blackspots in recruitment to GP training, with more than 60% of places left unfilled in some parts of the country after this year’s first intake round.

This came after 12% of places were left unfilled nationally last year, amid tumbling application rates.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul responded to the announcement, saying: ‘We are glad that after pressure from the BMA, the secretary of state is beginning to accept that we need to be more realistic about GP recruitment.

‘With such a limited workforce he now needs to rethink his plans for seven day services which cannot be practically delivered with the current shrinking number of GPs. There must also be serious steps taken to address the fundamental reasons why doctors do not want to be GPs, including delivering real and sustained investment to struggling practices, countering the negative stereotypes of GPs, reducing the burden of bureaucracy and enabling GPs to spend more time with their patients.’

Mr Hunt’s speech was followed by another talk on the ‘new deal’ by NHS England’s head of primary care development, Dr Robert Varnam, who told the audience that general practice had been working under severe funding and workforce constraints for years, which had been revealed in consultation with GPs.

Dr Varnam, who is a GP in Manchester, said: ‘Already at that time, and this was going back a few years, already the funding was starting to tail off, and actually since then we’ve seen major problems with premises and workforce. We’ve been sleepwalking into a workforce disaster in general practice for a number of years, and the acuity of the pressure that’s creating is now serious.

‘General practice is probably unsustainable without an awful lot of stuff being done, let alone reaching to beautiful visions of the future.’

Readers' comments (48)

  • "Persuade people back into the profession". What the ... ?

    Mr Hunt, if you'd done a stint in defence you'd understand that ejector seats are a last resort one way trip out of a burning aircraft before it falls apart completely or nosedives into the ground and explodes. Trust me, when I pull that yellow handle I ain't planning on walking back to the burning wreckage to give any unexploded ordnance a good kick.

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  • Do any of you seriously care anymore??

    Make these imbeciles obsolete...ALL OF THEM!!!


    coincidentally these countries have THOUSANDS of jobs FOR BRITISH GPs, they're begging for MRCGP holders;

    If the lifestyle doesn't attract you, how about the working conditions and fabulous pay????


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  • It took him 5 years to acknowledge that. I wonder how long will take him to sort the problem out. Not the sharpest tool in the he?

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  • Delusions of grandeur- CHECK

    Having Visions of 7 day working which are not there- CHECK (except in a selloff to private chums)

    Unable to hold meaningful eye contact (see NLP) -CHECK

    Confabulations - Daily Wail and other right wing press (remember Leveson inquiry anyone?)- CHECK

    A danger to others - 1) Patient care -CHECK
    2) Gps' health and their families' health- CHECK


    Is there not a place in >GOV.UK where one can ask for a question to be brought before parliament ?
    I think about 100,000 or more signatures?

    Where do i sign?

    This madness needs to

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • I despair.
    When he was interviewed by the R4 today program it felt like a party political broadcast. He simply wasn't challenged on the ludicrous targets he had set. How far the BBC has dropped. They simply had to look on pulse for the facts and figures that would have allowed them to tear apart the ridiculous figures he announced.
    Anyone who knows anything about what is happening in primary care right now (and this is for anyone who might be from the BBC doing some basic research by reading Pulse) knows he'll be lucky to not have 5,000 less GPs by 2020.
    I'd laugh if it wasn't so sad...not so much for general practice but the UK population who will be left without access to doctors.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Actually more excited to watch the other Agent Hunt in the forthcoming Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation .

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  • He is going to go down in history as a frank liar.

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  • the man is a lie incarnate
    wd cannot deal with him..he is dishonest
    ballot now for resignations

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  • 'The best health service....... in the world',
    we don't pay the doctors and nurses, just the businessmen supplying crap time limited components the most profitable of which, mates, are to the techno hospitals, except the vaccines!
    Business expenses: well PFI, mates (at least they think so); and staff, not to mention the sodding patients- sheez the f####ers dent the profit margins, but it's OK my dear greedy mates....we're working on it!
    Nothing personal, it's just business and boys, are we going to keep filling our boots on this brand!!

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  • He's well aware there aren't enough GPs and he's making sure there won't be. He doesn't think primary care needs to be staffed by Drs. He thinks they are too expensive and too difficult to control. His plan is to staff general practice with nurses and physicians assistants.

    This is his position...but he can't actually say it can he. So he just lies and comes up with stalling waffle whilst his background plan is carried out. This guy has a very low opinion of GPs. He works/used to work as a hospital porter so he could understand the 'real NHS'...he's opinions on general practice are coloured by the views of one sided jaded and ignorant hospital Drs who've never worked in primary care like the surgeon Prof M Thomas. This guys toxic views on General Practice are widely published and very clear. Mr Hunt completely agrees with him.

    Hunts contempt for GPs is obvious. But he's a politician. The raisin d'être of the political is to get unpopular and often crazy stuff done whilst distracting those who disagree by lying, sowing division and spinning propaganda. The squeals are kept to a minimum as your plan is carried out and your foes quietly eliminated.

    Hunt is a politician...and his is what he is doing. He doesn't want more GPs...he just can't say so.

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