The GP recruitment crisis is intensifying with almost a third (31%) of GP partners in England unable to fill GP staff vacancies for a year and forced to rely on locums to plug the gaps, according to a new BMA survey.
The survey, of 3,567 GP partners, also found that one in five (18%) GP partners said it takes between three and six months to recruit a GP. Only one in eight partners (13%) reported not needing to fill a gap in their workforce.
On a regional level, the West Midlands (35%), the East of England (35%) and the East Midlands (34%) were the areas with the highest levels of vacancies that were not filled within 12 months or longer. In London the figure was 27%.
Around a third of GP partners (31%) who need to hire locums do so in order to cover long-term employment vacancies.
The survey found a strong correlation between GPs’ workload and the ability to fill vacancies. Some 44% who described their workload as ‘excessive’ also report being unable to fill vacancies, compared to only 14% of this group who say their practice has been able to fill vacancies within a reasonable timeframe.
The findings follow the BMA’s news, from the same survey, that 84% of GPs believe that workload pressures are either unmanageable (57%) or excessive (27%) and are having a direct impact on the quality and safety of the care they deliver to patients.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul hit out at the Government’s lack of action to resolve the GP recruitment crisis.
He said: ‘The vast majority of GP services are suffering from constant shortages of GPs. It is clear that the crisis is so bad that general practice is being kept afloat by the essential help of locums who are stepping in to provide day-to-day services to patients…
‘As these figures demonstrate, those practices with long-term vacancies are also those struggling with unmanageable workload, leaving many GP services struggling to provide even basic care to their community.’
Dr Nagpaul urged ministers to listen to the warnings from grassroots GPs and ‘implement in full their pledges in the GP Forward View to properly staff and resource general practice’.