A lack of workforce is a ‘huge problem’ standing in the way of new schemes using GPs to alleviate pressure on other services, NHS England’s chief operating officer has warned.
Dame Barbara Hakin said schemes such as placing GPs in A&E departments to alleviate high demand was taking the available GP workforce away from other work such as staffing out-of-hours shifts or give clinical advice in NHS 111 call centres.
Speaking at an NHS England board meeting today, she said: ‘One thing I haven’t emphasized enough here is recruitment, and the workforce, and just what a huge problem that is… Often, you put one initiative in place somewhere and you just pull people from somewhere else. We’ve recently done an initiative to try and support every A&E to have GPs in every A&E department, but we’re also trying to support 111 providers to have GPs there, and out-of-hours providers.
‘If you’re not careful with either those, or the paramedics or the call handlers in 111, a new initiative just pulls on the limited workforce. So the work we’re doing with [Health Education England] to improve recruitment across the professions is critical.’
It comes as ‘unprecedented’ demand on NHS services this winter has led to hospitals pleading for the help of local GPs. However GPs reported that they were also overstretched, with reports of up to 90 patients contacts in a day.