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A faulty production line

Situation vacant: Pulse uncovers 'staggering' GP shortfall

GP vacancy rates are at their highest ever, finds Jaimie Kaffash

Almost one practice in five has had to abandon its search for a new GP as vacancies hit their highest level ever, shocking Pulse survey results reveal.

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

More worryingly, 158 (18%) said they had to give up recruiting a GP in the past 12 months after several unsuccessful attempts. The survey 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 staff shortages are heaping pressure on practices, with some resorting to hiring non-GPs to fill gaps.

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

gp recruitment data june 2017 580px

gp recruitment data june 2017 580px

Rapid increase

Pulse has run its vacancy survey since 2012, when the level of positions vacant was 4.2%. It offers the only longitudinal data on the subject; the last official figures were published in 2011 and showed a 2.1% vacancy rate.

The results come as the drive to recruit the 5,000 new GPs promised by the Conservatives goes into reverse. NHS England’s GP Forward View last year attempted to address the GP recruitment crisis through a £500m emergency fund.

However, official figures from NHS Digital suggest the number of full-time-equivalent GPs actually decreased by 542 in the period after the announcement.

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

She said: ‘No one wanted to be a partner at a small practice of 2,800 patients. It is hard work to run a practice and much harder as a sole principal.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard called Pulse’s figures ‘staggering’. She added: ‘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 for the wider NHS.

‘This must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Progress is being made in recruiting junior doctors into general practice, but overall GP numbers are down on last year, so we need a huge push to retain trained, experienced GPs in the workforce, as well as continuing to step up recruitment efforts, and making it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad.’

An NHS England spokesperson commented: ‘This miniature survey of fewer than one in 10 GP practices is statistically incapable of giving an accurate national picture of GP posts.’

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Readers' comments (10)

  • National Hopeless Service

    Our staff tea making policy is now in full swing. Its made the surgery a safer and better place to drink hot beverages in.

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  • Haven't seen any prove that CQC inspections improve patient care. Have experienced many examples of how they directly jeopardized patient care. An ethical dilemma here- what should or can I do about this?

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  • Revalidation, NICE guidelines, CQC, QOF, 1% pay increases, reduced pension, workload, demand etc. The joys of working in the modern NHS...

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  • The level of politics in NHS is insane.
    People create organisations for their own personal benefit and fleece the GPS and taxpayers for it.
    Can't decide whether Steve Field or Jeremy Hunt is worse for General Practice and NHS, or is just smoke and mirrors

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  • Part of the £100mln will go into the Tory campaign. In a month we'll have a recovery of low morale in CQC and Hunt's office - they do deserve a raise for their fantastic work - maybe another £100mln earmarked for bonuses for CQC and Hunt's staff in 2017-18. Next inspections are in 5 years so they can laze in Hawaii until then:)

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  • Is this value for money?
    A phenomenal amount of care could have been delivered with this cash
    A shift from 87% good and adequate to 90% is not a good return on the investment
    One could say that each percent shifted = 33,000,000 pounds

    I know it is not quite as simple as that...

    However it would have been entirely diffferent if the baseline had been 60% and it was now 90%

    This meagre shift in quality should be addressed by realising that the CQC regime should have a massive decrease in funding for GP inspections This should also be addressed by reducing all corporate costs to a bare minimum and in fact there would be a case to say that the CQC should be on the tightest block contract - similar to general practice...

    I honestly think that Primary Care has a case to self regulate at scale and take on that element of the CQC - it is a thought


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  • The smart abd big ones gave ads as with these you could prove you tried - and they got extra funding. The smaller Practices with scanty funds could not even advertise due to financial restraints and were not considered eligible for any support.Unless of course there was a CCG or LMC member in your Practice which would be improbable as they are the ones in those hordes called alliances or Federations.

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  • We need more European doctors. Otherwise who is prepared to do this shit job?

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  • Collapse is now inevitable . Even if people wanted to do GP there are not enough trainers . What we need is an exit strategy .

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  • I was hoping the BMA would co-ordinate a mass resignation, as in Northern Ireland, but alas this is not to be. NHS England have also scuppered this strategy with the arrival of super-practices and primary care working at scale. Exit strategies will have to be planned on an individual basis, do what is best in your own circumstances and do it early to protect your health.

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