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Gold, incentives and meh

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)

  • If an elected Govt does not wish GP oriented health care, then so be it. If it is the will of the people that this model of care is not what they wish, then we have to look at other models.
    We cannot subsidise the NHS forever, a fact that they do not realise. We may earn large sums but per item eg a consultation take home pay is £3. No private firm can ever provide that.
    But hey, if that is what the public have voted for, so be it then.

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  • let me see if i understand it.

    1/3 of GPs have said they are going to retire within 5 years.
    a lot (?number) of GPs are emigrating, locuming or changing careers
    the number of GPs entering the profession is down per year by 400

    so if we assume there are 45000 fte.
    1. 15000 are going to retire (or 3000 per year)
    2. -400 per year deficit in joiners (or 2500 joining per year)
    3. a few thousand (i guess) to LEP

    so by 2020 we are going to have a deficit of about 2-3000 GPs

    is he sure he didn't misread his speech and meant to have said we will have 5000 less GPs?

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  • population estimate by 2020 is 67 million in UK

    if we are down to 40,000 or 35,000 GPs - it is possible there will be 1 GP per 2000 people. throw in 24 hr care and the job will be suicidal - i can't see anyone doing it unless salary is c .500k

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  • 'rollback'....a euphemism for a filthy lie.

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  • I Have just completed a week in a reduced capacity occupational health service since the axing of support by NHSE and reluctantly have had to recommend 4 Doctors to take at least 3 months sick leave each by virtue of the severity of their burn out symptoms This is equivalent to the loss of a whole experienced GP in one week in a small part of the country .The demand has doubled since the election results so the existing work force is shrinking fast

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  • Dr Ben, so sad that so many GPs are depressed and burntout. I also feel this and have left for a few months.
    But, to me, the real question is this = why do we have a Contract that is so so toxic to so many of the Contractors?
    Whose job is it that the Contract should be reasonable and fair?
    Has anyone a duty of care to GPs or doctors in general [ I used to do 80 hour weekends with 2-3 hours sleep]?
    Is it not right that such a system almost equivalent to slavery in its hours, comes to an end?
    Would you, Dr Ben recommend GP land to anybody? I would not, it is horrific and on top of the nightmare, you have the triple headed monsters of GMC, CQC and Medical defence.
    I am glad i am gone and it stuns me that there are thousands still wanting to be GPs.

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  • Employ physician assistant instead of gps who can be bad as Steve field says

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  • We face £50 k loss in weighted list. We face a further £66k loss from PMS cuts. We are 2 ft gps
    Any ideas how we can earn more than our present £70k pa facing such cuts

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