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Government pledges 5,000 more pharmacists, nurses and physician associates

The Government has pledged 5,000 new primary care staff, including pharmacists, physician associates and district nurses to help alleviate workforce pressures.

The pledge, one of a smattering of fresh announcements in the health secretary’s much touted ‘new deal’, will see the primary care team expanded alongside the 5,000 new GPs which were pledged in the Conservative’s manifesto.

Training leaders have said that pharmacists and advanced nurse practitioners will ‘never be a replacement for GPs’ and will not be ready in time to tackle the immediate workforce crisis.

In a speech later today Mr Hunt will pledge to recruit ‘at least 10,000 extra primary care staff – including 5,000 GPs, practice nurses, district nurses, physician associates and pharmacists’.

The RCGP and BMA have already cast doubts on whether physician associates could provide a cheap replacement to GPs, though one Midlands CCG has already resorted to importing physicians associates form the US for its practices.

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The GPC’s education, training & workforce chair, Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, told Pulse: ‘The reality is there aren’t nurses grown on trees. They still need training in general practice to deal with some of the workload that GPs do.

‘Having worked with advanced nurses and pharmacists in my practice, there’s certainly a role for both of them in the primary care team now. We need to be very clear they’re not a replacement for GPs, they’ll never be a replacement for GPs.’

In measures to encourage graduates to join the profession, Mr Hunt will spell out plans to allow trainees to do a further year of training in a related specialty, including paediatrics, psychiatry and emergency medicine, and will ‘explore’ the possibility of giving ‘golden hellos’.

GPC trainees subcommittee chair Dr Donna Tooth told Pulse she was awaiting details but the pledge to offer trainees an additional year of training in another clinical specialty was ‘disappointing’.

Dr Tooth added: ‘I think I have to remain sceptical about it until I hear further details… We are the shortest specialty training of all the specialties, and we already have a limited amount of time within general practice. So if it is what it’s suggesting, I would be disappointed that there’s not an extension of any time in general practice to learn our own specialty adequately.’