Exclusive Around 12% of all GP posts in the UK are vacant, the highest proportion recorded, a Pulse survey has revealed.
It also reveals that almost half of practices have had to recruit a partner within the past 12 months, taking longer than six months on average.
GP leaders told Pulse this is a major reason why practices are closing, while other GPs said they have had to recruit advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) as they are unable to recruit.
NHS England’s General Practice Forward View acknowledged the difficulties in recruitment, and committed more than £200m on a number of schemes, including recruitment of pharmacists, retention of GPs and training nurses, clerical staff and practice managers.
Pulse’s survey on vacancy rates is the most robust study on the issue, and has frequently been cited by official bodies.
This year’s survey has revealed the situation is worse than ever, with more than one in nine posts vacant, despite many practices appointing non-GPs to fill the gaps.
It also reveals:
- 44% of practices have had to recruit a partner in the past 12 months, while 52% have had to recruit a salaried GP;
- The average time spent recruiting a partner is now 6.6 months, compared with 5.7 months last year;
- 23% of practices are spending more than a year looking to recruit a partner, compared with 18% last year and 10% in 2014;
- The average time spent recruiting a salaried GP is 5.2 months
Dr Peter Graves, chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC, said: ’Here in Beds & Herts we are also witnessing extremely high vacancy rates and know that approximately 25% of our practices have been carrying at least one GP vacancy for six months or more.
’The impact is that we have had five practices resign from their contracts in the last 12 months. Fortunately, to date, all of these have been taken over by other providers so patients aren’t actually losing their surgeries at the moment. All of these contracts have been interim 12 month contracts which isn’t a long-term solution.
’Beds & Herts LMC has invested in a small team of GPs and a practice manager working on finding longer-term solutions by supporting practice mergers and collaboration between practices (some are forming federations) but this needs time and resource, neither of which practices currently have.’
Dr Catherine Smith, a GP in Yorkshire, said: ‘I’m not surprised [about vacancy rates increasing]. We have recruited ANPs and pharmacists to help as there are no GPs.’
The GPC reiterated its call for NHS England to be allowed to close its list.
Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It’s a reality for practices up and down the country and problems are being magnified
‘The pressures of being a permanent GP are such that people are leaving in droves to become salaried GPs or locums. The overall demands of running a practice are falling heavily on the shoulders of partners.
‘The Government must ensure that practices that are suffering recruitment problems will be supported and relieved of admin pressures, be allowed to close their lists… The most important thing is that practices do not feel forced to practice unsafely.’
The survey was launched on 28 April 2016, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 24 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 817 GPs answered this question.