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At the heart of general practice since 1960

3,000 GPs short? You ain't seen nothing yet

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Grandstanding ministerial conference announcements often garner cynical responses in much the same way that giant festering slurry pits overflowing with toxic diarrhoea tend to elicit wrinkled noses, and Mr Hunt’s promise of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 certainly had the elite ranks of the medical commentariat doubtfully sniffing their pomanders. So it’s with disappointment but no great sense of surprise that we now discover he’s on course to undershoot his target by more than 50%. As readers will be acutely aware, general practice is already circling what I call the Dawlatly Vortex of Doom, after the erstwhile Pulse blogger’s infographic depicting the perfect storm of increased workload, decreased morale and workforce decimation spiralling ominously into one another.

Just wait till half the output of the nation’s medical schools flies off to Australia

We’ve been here before, of course. In 2004, the Department of Health responded to a similar GP recruitment crisis by significantly increasing take home pay and reducing hours of clinical responsibility. The fact that these changes were introduced largely by accident does nothing to detract from their efficacy in attracting thousands of doctors (including a brighter-eyed, bushier-tailed, pre-burnout iteration of yours truly) into primary care. Mr Hunt’s solution, sadly, is somewhat different. He’s chosen instead to start a self-proclaimed nuclear war with the junior doctors he needs to make up the missing 5,000.

There’s a photo doing the rounds at the moment that ought to strike fear into the heart of anyone with a vested interest in the survival of general practice, which basically means anyone who has ‘being old and sick in the UK at some point’ on their to-do list. A lecturing junior doctor asked his medical student audience to raise their hands if they intended to leave the UK after foundation training; the resulting picture looks like he’s inadvertently wandered into the AGM of the Alan Shearer goal celebration re-enactment society.

It’s hardly rocket science. If you’re having trouble recruiting, it makes sense to improve pay and conditions until your potential workforce responds. What you don’t want to do is launch into the bitterest industrial dispute in living memory with the very people you’re hoping to attract. If you think a shortfall of 3,000-odd GPs is bad, just wait till half the output of the nation’s medical schools flies off to Australia. Even a PR man of Mr Hunt’s indubitable skills won’t be able to wipe the stink off that. 

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

 

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Readers' comments (18)

  • John Glasspool

    QUite right! Interesting about the cesspit analogy. Visit British General Practice has become a cesspit on Facebook.

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  • As I said in my letter to Pulse earlier this month, the most valuable (and costliest) asset is highly trained staff. This seems to be a fact that is regularly forgotten in many businesses wth the end result being either loss of corporate memory with high turnovers or simply not enough staff to run a safe service leading to burnout and destruction of the existing staff.
    It is time to value staff who are quite capable of finding other, potentially better paid, jobs outside Medicine. I am due to talk to 6th formers at a school thinking of a career in Medicine. Now what do I tell them?

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  • Michael - Spot on. The comments on HSJ on an article about Hunt's suggestion that CQC inspections were his biggest mistake point out exactly this - organisational memory is key.

    Many suggesting he won't now last the post-referendum reshuffle in his current post. Chancellor anyone?

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  • Quite right, Pete, and even HEE's 'accidental' miscalculation to apparently boost trainee numbers for next year didn't even reach the replacement requirements, never mind any extra GPS.

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  • Hunt said that relying on inspection to achieve good outcomes was his biggest mistake, instead of realising a culture change is needed. He DIDN'T say more funding is needed. Culture change means more reorganisation, 'sustainability and transformation'- that is cuts and being able to blame someone else. Great opportunities for his friends in KPMG to get lots of NHS moneyadvising Hunt how to accomplish this.

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  • Bob Hodges

    You can say what you like about the 2004 contract, but like Pete, without it I'd not be a GP.

    Thousands of us, the ones that will have to form the nucleus of the rear guard (or whatever comes next), will say the same thing.

    However, this time there aren't enough cats left to herd with cash.

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  • LOL 'shortfall of 3,000-odd GPs'
    Pete you hit the nail on the head! You need 3,000 more ODD GPs to even consider it!!!

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  • Plan for extra GPs is about as useful as all my admission avoidance plans...

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  • Usual infantile carping about "evil Tory plots".
    How about some thought through and costed positive solutions?

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  • 743
    I don't know any solutions to GMC. A locum was stating she saw 52 patients in one day. How can this be safe? Mistakes are bound to happen at those workloads, perhaps ending your hard won career.
    No matter whatever else, litigation , complaints and escalating dangerous workloads cannot continue.
    If you have some ideas, please put them out.

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