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GP numbers down because of ‘millennial’ working hours, says training chief

Young GPs are willing to work fewer hours than their older counterparts, resulting in the equivalent of 10% fewer doctors in the workforce, the head of HEE has said.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of HEE, told delegates at NHS Confederation’s conference that the Government has had to revise down its estimates on the number of GPs in the workforce – as reported previously by Pulse.

But he added that this was partly due to the changes in working patterns for younger GPs.

Professor Cumming told delegates that GPs used to work on average the equivalent of 0.9 WTE, but this has dropped to 0.83 as more millennial GPs enter the workforce.

As a result of this, the number of full-time-equivalent doctors in the system has reduced.

He said: ‘Our workforce are choosing to work fewer hours. Part of this is because of generation Y and Z and millennials starting to come through, who are increasingly not wanting to work the same number of hours that many of the baby boomers and generation X want to work.’

The HEE chief executive said that the figures from NHS Digital mean that the NHS is getting 10% fewer clinical hours out of each GP over the past few years, which equates to 10% fewer GPs in the workforce.

Professor Cumming said: ‘Another way of putting that is you’re dealing with 10% more patients, you’re under 10% more pressure.’

The trend is likely to continue and grow, he added, ‘so we have to be mindful of that, that we aren’t getting the same number of hours out of every clinician as we used to’.

Professor Cumming also addressed the Government’s plan to increase the number of medical students by 1,500 by 2019.

He said 500 of those places have been allocated, with 1,000 more to start in 2019.

But he cautioned delegates not to get ‘carried away about the immediate benefits of that’, adding that it is ’11 years before these people are GPs’.

He said: ‘We need to do it because we need to get our workforce right but it’s not a short-term fix.’