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NHS England to look at whether ‘right individuals’ are becoming GPs

NHS England is to look at whether the NHS is recruiting the right kind of GPs to ensure better management of long-term conditions, its head of primary care commissioning has told Pulse.

Dr David Geddes, head of primary care commissioning at NHS England, said that while CCGs are showing willingness to align the workforce to work preventatively with patients with long-term conditions, there are barriers in the primary care systems to achieving this goal, which has been set out as one of the key mandates for NHS England to work towards.

The news comes as NHS England has kicked off a review of primary care that will lead to a national strategy being set out later this year, with Dr Geddes confirming that looking at the GP workforce and its professional development would form part of that process.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, he said: ‘I think there is a willingness from CCGs to be able to align the workforce to help manage people with long term conditions more effectively.

‘[We will look at] all workforce in terms of primary care… Is the current workforce being trained? Are we recruiting the right individuals for going into medicine? Are we training them in the right way to be able to be doctors of the future, working in the community? Or do we want to change that training culture in order to make sure that there is sufficient resource in primary care, so that we don’t articulate a strategy which we are then unable to deliver because we have the wrong workforce that are being trained in the wrong way.’

He concluded: ‘We definitely need to be working with Health Education England in terms of anticipating and having a workforce strategy that is aligned with the NHS strategy, and indeed the primary care strategy going forward.’

But Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, deputy head of the GPC subcommittee on education, training and workforce, said the key priority for NHS England should be to restore general practice as an attractive option for medical graduates.

She said: ‘We are failing to recruit the first-choice candidates because graduates will not opt for a career in general practice. We have a real struggle with recruitment into general practice, with failure even to recruit in the second round. And with the changing demographic of the workforce becoming more female, you have to recruit 2.4 new GPs for each GP currently retiring. You can see that we have a perfect storm building.’

‘Until we grapple with the whole issue of patient demand versus what we can actually provide with practice income we are going to continue to have a recruitment crisis in general practice and I do not understand the Government’s stalwart drive to stifle general practice. We need investment and resources to be able to deliver what 21st century general practice should look like and at the moment it is just not happening.’

Other areas of review for NHS England will include looking at shrinking the QOF and opening up the GP contract to allow for more local commissioning with input from CCGs.

GP training is already facing an overhaul after the Government signed off RCGP plans for it to be extended to four years last year, although some critics have warned that a qualification time lag may worsen the workforce crisis unless its implementation is staggered.