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Pulse 2019 review: What the election results mean for GPs

The recent election will have ramifications for GPs. Allie Anderson reports

In the lead-up to the general election, the NHS barely made it out of the headlines.

Unsurprisingly, it was subject to the usual clamour of promises and accusations from all sides.

But now the dust is starting to settle, what will general practice find in its Christmas stocking – a pot of glistening gold or an old lump of coal?

This year, the average wait to see a GP exceeded two weeks for the first time, and health secretary Matt Hancock has promised to speed things up. This would happen in the form of an extra 6,000 GPs by 2023/24.

But, when you factor in that in 2015 the Tories promised to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by next year – and that, in reality, numbers have fallen by 1,000 in that time – we’re still way down on the GP workforce.

More than that, it turns out that half of the 6,000 newly pledged GPs will actually be trainees – and they won’t be fully trained and in post in five years’ time.

In the best-case scenario, there will be 3,000 fewer fully trained GPs in three years’ time than the government said we’d have now.

But the best-case scenario seldom pans out, and it doesn’t allow for the retention problems general practice has continued to have in recent years.

According to NHS primary care director Dr Nikita Kanani, only one in every three GP trainees will go on to become a full-time equivalent GP.

A King’s Fund study paints an even bleaker picture, suggesting that just one GP trainee in 20 sees themselves working in general practice in 10 years’ time. And just one-quarter see themselves working as a full-time GP in a year.

Moreover, around 30% of GPs have reduced their hours in the past year. All things considered, the Tory vision for a flourishing GP workforce is nothing short of a pipe dream.

There’s not an iota of clarity on how the Conservatives intend to improve retention, beyond vague whispers about reducing pressures on staff through triage and technology.

Some of the strain in general practice could be taken by other healthcare professionals, and the government plans to plough £300m into boosting these staff numbers by 6,000. This is on top of the 20,000 pledged as part of the recent GP contract.

But again, the details are lacking so we’re none the wiser as to how this will happen in reality.

The party has pledged £4.4bn per year in long-term general practice funding – which sounds laudable. The BMA, however, suggests that overall NHS funding will fall short by £6.2bn by 2023-24.

That’s a lot of money that needs to be found down the back of the sofa.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Took Early Retirement

    I can tell you:-
    More work dumped on you
    More slagging off in the press
    Another pay cut
    More severe regulation
    More audits
    More difficult re-validation
    More threats from the GMC
    More threats from the police

    If you work in the UK as a GP, that is.

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  • Until there is widespread recognition that the NHS is fatally flawed, politicians have their hands tied.

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  • The end of days for GP land.

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  • Agree with Stelvio. No matter how much money is put in, the NHS would never have enough. Whichever party is in power this fact would remain.The only way is some sort of insurance based system where the poorer get some sort of subsidy. A sort of dentists but better system. People would have to pay to be seen but the poorer could get refunded. Heath tourists would also need to pay rather than get treated for free with a blind eye turned as at present.
    Of course no politician would dare to suggest this as the media would crucify them for ' destroying the NHS' so it will be left to crumble as it is.

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  • General Practice could be made more attractive overnight. Make the CQC's inspections formative, contextualised and with a totally clear set of basic standards that are professionally agreed.
    Overhaul the whole approach to complaints. They destroy doctors rather than improve services.
    Bring back a District Nurse that you see on a daily basis.
    Strip out the powers of CCGs to micromanage and interfere. Return the contractual relationship to the one of mutual respect as existed between GPs and the old FPC.
    Keep a watching eye on the GMC to make sure it doesn't get ideas above its station again.
    And as a guiding light resist being skilled workforce and fight for your sense of professionalism.

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  • What tyrannical times we live in. Government acting as the benevolent, omnipresent and omniscient big brother who knows what’s best for all people has become the all powerful lord. Everyone beneath is a serf who must obey and give a huge cut of their earnings to the government every year.. The road to serfdom is here at last. God help you if you work in one of the government protected areas of the economy like healthcare or education. Your liberties are literally all washed away. Power back to the people is the only remedy to this perversion

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