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GPs go forth

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)

  • Such a pity Mr Hunt as 5000 is the minimum needed to deliver 7 day service.
    As your view that you can find the necessary number is changing please change your view on how thinly you can spread the current GP resource.
    If it helps my practice is willing to close Monday and Tuesday and open Saturday and Sunday, we are all used to working flexibly.
    I haveheld a GP principle contract with cover ever since I qualified and worked for out of ours services since the contract split to core and out of hours.
    Please be advised the contract was divided to prevent burnout and excessively long hours of work to maintain recruitment- you clearly don't read the cabinet backpapers or you would not be repeating the work that was done in 2001 on inappopriate service requests to GP's from the begining again.
    I appreciate "Making a Difference" is a poor title linking to over 2000 Government publications, I enclose the link
    Stop talking politics and start taking useful action.
    I am afraid I am of the Ian Fleming persuasion on your actions..
    "a first deteriorated outcome for your input is happenstance;
    A second deteriorated outcome for your input is co-incidence;
    A third deteriorated outcome for your input is ENEMY ACTION.

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  • It is absolutely clear that GPs should not negotiate on 7 days opening in return for improved workforce.

    As we have found to our cost we would be held to keep our side of the agreement but the DoH/ NHSE would renege on its side of the deal at the earliest opportunity (e.g now).

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  • It is quite clear from both sides that the government will not be able to keep their side of the 'deal' and provide an extra 5000 GPs 'in truth' or otherwise within the timeframe mentioned. It's therefore clear that we as GPs do not have a deal Mr Hunt.
    Scale down your fantastical plans for 7 day GP opening and do something right now about retaining and encouraging GPs to return to your health service. Drop the red tape, get crown indemnity cover for GPs, scrap revalidation, stop making is jump through hoops to gain funding for work we already do and most importantly stop , STOP this constant denigration of the profession in this country's media. It's absolutely toxic to the continuing improvement and growth of your workforce and your plan to deliver a better NHS that remains free at the point of use.

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  • Guess I'll have to be "flexible" promising 7 day working too....

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  • Politicians should not be allowed any where near healthcare. Jeremy Hunt is either completely inept and / or a complete liar. Either way he's out of his depth and dangerous.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Politicians= evil lying scum, usually. 99% of them give the rest a bad name.

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  • Are we surprised? Didn't we tell them how long it takes to train a GP? What self-respecting retiree would come back? 12 hour, 7 day availability with ever diminishing, demoralised workforce and inadequate funding? Blood out of a stone?

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  • 'Sleepwalking' into this - i don't think so. Ppl have been warning of this for YEARS. This the GP equivalent of deliberately repeatedly ignoring plain red flag symptoms - its called grossly negligent workforce er ?planning

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  • Glad to be retired. I certainly won't return to a system that has become so toxic due to lack of support & funding from DH. PAs are not a replacement for GPs. CQC needs to reform radically or disappear. J Hunt needs to sit with a GP throughout a whole working week to get real.

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  • Ha ha ha ha
    Liar liar pants on fire
    Ha ha ha ha
    Geez this cracks me up
    Ladies to the left Gentleman to the right and alternates the bathroom for you is down the road and to the left room number 666
    Seriously we are an unbelievably forgiving spineless bunch of so so who just bend and talk
    How does one change tend like the wind , I mean chameleons are slimy lizard types but at least they stay have integrity
    JR EWING Dallas fame was right -- if you have no integrity life us so easy
    Alas if only we could all wake up and pretend it's all a dream aka Bobby ------ who knows maybe it us ..tan tan de tan ....!

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