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5,000 GPs need to be trained each year to meet workforce targets, says RCGP

The RCGP has urged the Government to increase the number of doctors training to be GPs from 3,500 to 5,000 per year, ahead of today’s spending review. 

In a letter to Chancellor Sajid Javid and chief secretary to the treasury, Rishi Sunak, RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard there was ‘immense strain’ felt by general practice.

She said an increase in the number of placements available for GP training per year from 3,500 to 5,000 was needed to sufficiently address the workforce problems facing general practice. 

The letter said funding for education and training of GPs and other health professionals should be boosted by at least 3.6%, which amounts to an immediate increase of £160m.

It comes as Mr Javid is expected to set out new departmental budgets for 2020-21 today, including healthcare. 

In its letter, the RCGP also called for more to be done to improve retention within general practice. 

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘The Interim People Plan set out laudable aspirations on the development of the NHS workforce, but we are deeply concerned that current levels of funding are not sufficient to deliver this.

‘It is crucial that more is done to retain the hardworking GPs we currently have. There has been some success with locally funded GP retention schemes, but the £13m currently allocated is woefully insufficient…expanding the local funding for GP retainer schemes by an additional £72m could have a significant effect in preventing much needed experienced GPs leaving general practice.’

The letter added: ‘The recent fall in the number of GPs relative to the size of the population – the first such sustained fall since the 1960s – leaves no doubt that general practice is facing an urgent workforce crisis. It is essential that this decline is not ignored as the demand for GP services escalates in terms of both volume and complexity.

‘Recognising that this spending round only covers short-term decisions to be taken in the next year, we are calling for a further £50m per year to rectify the historic underfunding of undergraduate medical placements in general practice.’

NHS Digital figures last week showed that the number of fully qualified, full-time equivalent GPs fell by 576 between June 2018 and June 2019.

While former health secretary Jeremy Hunt was the first to voice proposals to expand the GP workforce by 5,000 – which in 2015 he believed would be implemented within five years – his successor Matt Hancock stated this summer that he will look into including a new deadline for doing so, in the NHS’ upcoming workforce plan.

Last month the Prime Minister pledged an additional £1.8bn in funding for the NHS, including over £110m for primary care, as well as £250m to focus on artificial intelligence and genomic testing in the healthcare service.