This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

GPs go forth

One in five practices abandon recruitment due to 'staggering' shortage of GPs

Exclusive Almost one in five practices has had to abandon searching for a new GP as vacancy rates have hit their highest ever, a shocking Pulse survey has revealed.

Pulse’s annual practice vacanies survey was answered by 860 GPs and reveals that 12.2% of all positions are currently vacant – an increase from the 11.7% reported at the same time last year.

More worryingly, 158 said they had to give up recruiting a GP in the past 12 months after unsuccessful attempts.

The survey - the only longitudinal data available on this subject - also reveals that the average time taken to recruit a GP partner has lengthened by almost a month over the past year.

GP leaders say that the increase in vacancy rates is ‘staggering’, and that the lack of staff are heaping pressure on other GPs, with practices having to resort to hiring non-GPs to fill the gaps.

GPs have also reported having to close down their practices after failing to recruit a partner.

Pulse has run its vacancy survey since 2011, when the rate of positions vacant was 2.1%, which has rapidly increased in the years since.

NHS England’s ‘GP Forward View’ last year attempted to address the GP recruitment crisis through a £500m emergency fund, that was in part used to offer incentives for GPs to remain in post, return to the UK and work in under-doctored areas.

However, official figures from NHS Digital revealed that the number of full-time equivalent GPs actually decreased in the six months after the announcement, which hasn’t yet had the desired effect.

Dr Charlotte Ferriday, a GP in Devon, said that her practice was forced to close after its sole partner had a heart attack and wanted to come back as a salaried GP.

She said: ‘We asked all locums and acquaintances about possibly coming to work at the surgery as a partner. We advertised on the Devon LMC website. The practice attempted a merger with a bigger practice that fell through.

‘No-one wanted to be the sole partner at a small practice of 2,800 patients. It is hard work to run a practice and much harder doing it as a sole partner.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘The high number of positions vacant and one in five practices abandoning their search) is another sign of the recruitment crisis with many practices struggling to find GPs.

‘This is adding to the pressure of the remaining staff. Some practices are looking to recruit therapists, pharmacists and other health professionals but of course they are not a replacement for a GP. There needs to be a real step-change in recruitment initiatives to ease the pressure on GPs.’

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: ’We know that practices across the country are finding it really difficult to recruit GPs to fill vacant posts, and the degree to which this problem has increased over the last six years is staggering. In the most severe cases, not being able to recruit has forced practices to close, and this can be a devastating experience for the patients and staff affected, and the wider NHS.’


p22 june 2017 data lowdown final

p22 june 2017 data lowdown final

Readers' comments (24)

  • Young doctors have not taken up opportunities and some older guys are running gp businesses with nurses, hca and ecp support. Patients seemed to have been ignored by CCGs which should have supported practices and taken services local...the reason they were formed in the first place. Instead they have some leads with all the contracts and most of the money in hospitals with increased consultants etc
    Ignore the gatekeeper and lose the value of this fundamental function.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's going to be interesting to see what impact Brexit has on recruitment and retaining of GPs. Ca 4,000 EU GPs at present. How many are going to be left in 2 years?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • NHSE actually wants GP practices to close. That is why they are making sure that no extra money goes to GP practices direct. Any new money will go to federations. It's all part of the plan of having 100,000 patient practices that will ultimately be controlled by United Health or Virgin et cetera. All GPs and other clinicians will become salaried serfs

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm recovering from surgery, so have had Sky News on all morning. They've had time to cover shark sightings in California, but not a word on this subject.

    It's time we "got it". No one is coming to our rescue. Time to go private. The public, in the end, get the service they deserve.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I hate the conspiracy theory end of things.

    But the number of crisis events I have come across is astounding - both in primary and sec care.

    Yet the mainstream news coverage is virtually non existent - the BBC is very much complicit in this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • No point spending money trying to get a resource that not there.Look at alternatives,if not available start to wind the business down with your liabilities.Do what the private sector do and if that's not good enough hand back you contract or commit suicide by CQC,get them to close you down.Do not cooperate with the establishment go out on your terms.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Clearly we are going to get some form of private NHS care. There will probably be co-payment or more likely a separate private health insurance package. United Health etc are itching to get in the new market. However the main thing is that as individual GP practices we need autonomy. It will be hell working for a large multinational like Virgin or United health primary healthcare. At the moment nobody pays for primary healthcare directly in the UK in the NHS. This link is to a report in the second half of the 'show' by a family physician (GP) in the states. Obviously their model is different, but it is definitely worth watching as I think this is likely to be our and our patient's saviour in the future. We have to keep large insurance companies out of the equation and deliver best medicine as cheaply as possible for our patients. Having clicked on the GP's link ( it appears that hospital doctors are starting to go the same way

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This comment has been moderated.

  • @Tony-"We have to keep large insurance companies out of the equation and deliver best medicine as cheaply as possible for our patients."- WHYYYYY??
    I have been trained as doctor to diagnose medical condition and treat them. Why should I watch for what insurance companies are doing and MORE IMPORTANTLY why should we look to provide medical care cheaply?
    Ultimately it would be demand and supply and if my skill is needed, I would be paid as much as I want, otherwise I am happy to stay within my limits.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say