This site is intended for health professionals only

GP shortage will undermine the future of the NHS, says think tank

A report has highlighted that the looming shortage of GPs and the oversupply of hospital specialists will undermine the drive to safeguard the NHS in the future.

The report from the King’s Fund says that despite one in ten of the UK’s working population working in the NHS or social care, this workforce is not in the right place to care for a growing number of older people with multiple long-term conditions.

Instead it is designed as a ‘racquet sport’ where patients are sent back and forth between their GP and specialists, the authors suggested.

The report comes after Pulse revealed deaneries have recruited only 95 additional GP trainees to begin training next month, casting serious doubt on whether Health Education England will reach its target of an annual intake of 3,250 GP trainees by 2015.

The think-tank says the workforce needed to be rebalanced to drive down future costs and prepare for the future needs of the NHS. It recommednds a review of new national NHS contracts and a redistribution of the healthcare training budget.

Statistics released in March by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that the number of GPs had increased by just 25% since 2002, further compounding fears of a workforce crisis as the increase in consultants had risen by 49% over the same period,

The document said: ‘There is a mismatch between the location of the current workforce and where care is needed… The Centre for Workforce Intelligence, the national workforce planning body in England, is forecasting an oversupply of hospital doctors and an undersupply of GPs… Workforce redesign is needed not only because of a potentially dwindling workforce, but also because the nature of health care work is changing and the skills of the current workforce are not well matched to future needs.’

It concluded: ‘There is currently a real risk that the workforce, in particular the medical workforce, will drive the care model not the other way around. To achieve better alignment between the workforce and the work, workforce and service redesign need to go hand in hand. There should also be a review of current national contracts and pay.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: ‘This report demonstrates that policy makers have failed to get a grip on NHS workforce planning. The projected imbalances between different specialties will have serious implications for patient care and come on top of reports showing wider staff shortages in key areas such as emergency care. ‘General practice is already under intense strain from rising patient demand and declining resources. A shortage in the number of GPs entering the workforce will further exacerbate this pressure and could mean that there are not enough GPs available to provide care to patients.’

‘It is also worrying that services dealing with the care of older people are facing staff shortfalls when an ageing population will require their skills even more in the future. This is a time when new government agencies are taking responsibility for the organisation of NHS staff planning. These bodies must act swiftly to work with healthcare professionals and patients to find a solution to the workforce crisis. This must include looking at how we align staffing levels to match the changing demands of patients and addressing issues that might be deterring medical graduates from choosing certain career paths.’

Click here to read the report