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NHS England claims nearly 3,000 practice staff added to reduce GP workload

NHS England claims to have recruited more than half of the 5,000 pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals that were pledged to support the GP workforce by 2020.

Official papers, to be discussed by the NHS England board today, claim that the wider general practice workforce ‘has grown by 2,709 full time equivalents’ between September 2015 and March 2017.

It adds that the bulk of these roles have a ‘direct patient care responsibility’, including 363 mental health therapists and ‘more than 1,000 clinical pharmacists’ – although not all of these have taken up their post yet.

But GP leaders said these programmes were too reliant on one-off pots of money, and without recurrent revenue practices would be ‘back to square one’ with their workforce issues.

And local leaders in some of the areas with the worst GP workforce shortages say they have had more luck attracting GPs from overseas than in recruiting pledged physician associates, pharmacists or mental health workers to share the burden.

The NHS England board paper provides an update on targets outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View which include expanding the primary care team.

It says: ‘As at the end of March 2017, the wider workforce in general practice has grown by 2,709 FTE since September 2015, putting us over half way to meeting the wider target. The majority of this increase was seen in staff with direct patient care responsibilities (e.g. clinical pharmacists, dispensers and health care assistants).

‘There are now over 1,000 clinical pharmacists confirmed or in post in GP practices. There are also an additional 363 mental health therapists in primary care.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey acknowledged the figures, but added: ‘I think it is important that we do see a genuine expansion and not a substitution of the workforce, otherwise we will still face the same workload pressures.’

‘So whilst we are supportive of the expansion of the workforce, we must have recurrent funding to enable that to be sustainable. Otherwise we are back to square one again.’

He said a key concern of the BMA was the time-limited funding for the practice pharmacists scheme.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘Whilst the scheme has had some uptake from practices, within two or three years that money will have evaporated, and practices will be left picking up the cost without having recurrent resource to sustain it’.

And Dr Kieran Sharrock, chair of Lincolnshire LMC which pioneered NHS England's now-expanded programme to recruit 2,000 GPs from overseas, told Pulse: 'Unfortunately the workforce initiatives in the GPFV will not benefit practices for many years to come.

'We are fortunate to have recruited 26 GPs with HEE and NHSE support, but there are no physician associates, mental health workers or pharmacists in practice yet in our area.'

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged, in his 'new deal' speech in June 2015, that the Government would expand the primary care team by ‘at least 10,000 extra primary care staff – including 5,000 GPs, [plus] practice nurses, district nurses, physician associates and pharmacists’.

A Pulse progress report on these workforce targets in March 2017 found that 491 pharmacists were currently working in roles in practices, though more may have accepted a position.

Readers' comments (11)

  • NHS ENGLAND ARE THE "MOUTHPIECE" OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHO BELIEVE THAT IF YOU REPEAT SOMETHING OFTEN ENOUGH IT BECOMES TRUE.

    THIS IS "SPIN" DESIGNED FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION TO BE BROADCAST BY THE OFFICAL TORY PROPAGANDA MACHINE, THE DAILY NUTTER.

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  • THE DAILY NUTTER HAS MANAGED TO SUCCESSFULLY BULLY GPs AND DISTORT REALITY SUCH THAT MANY GPs HAVE LEFT MEDICINE AND NOBODY WANTS TO DO THE JOB SO NOW WE HAVE A CRISIS.

    THE PUBLIC HAVE THE DAILY NUTTER TO THANK FOR THE MESS WE ARE IN.

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  • CERTAIN TORY MEDIA HAVE COMMITTED "MORAL CRIMES" AGAINST THE GENERAL PUBLIC WITH THEIR LIES.
    SOMETHING HAS GONE DANGEROUSLY WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY.

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  • There are no extra staff if my area is anything to go by. The CCG provided pharamcy support service equating to around 4 sessions for our practice. This has stopped as there is no money to support this. The financial support available via NHSE for a practice pharmacist was time limited and came with too many strings attached. We have subsequently recruited a clinical pharmacist who prescribes and undertake approximately 4 clinical sessions. No extra workforce simply a shift of costs to the practice.

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  • we have a wonderful motivated pharmacist who does much more than most salaried drs.I would love to have more but can't find any.
    no gps coming through. the future is very bleak without more help. retiring soon

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  • Workforce numbers still very low and recruiting physician assistant grade is a poor substitute for a properly trained GP who are now shunning partnerships and long term commitment. One off funding is a serious weakness too! Tories re reaping what they have sown.Pity!

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  • @Ian
    The Tories are not reaping whay they have sown. In fact they are delighted that their plans to destroy and then privatise the health service are going so well.
    You have to admire them for this even though they have all the ethical and moral principles of the pre-war German state.

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  • Hunt's original promise was for 5,000 more GPs, not HCAs, nurses, pharmacists, staff. He needs to be reminded of this, bluntly and called out for his spinning of the situation.

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  • Hear that,I think it's the shifting of the goalpost by a bunch of numpties.

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  • most 'new' staff are nothing of the sort. they simply leave one NHS job for another.. robbing peter to pay paul...all of the staff recruited to our practice in last 24 months are firstly not GPs (they don't exists now) and all have come form other parts of NHS, so not 'new' to the game.
    usual headline nonsense to placate the voters

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