GP training bosses are making plans for a scenario where England is 1,000 GPs short within five years, compared with the number needed to meet patient demand.
Health Education England said the projection, featured in a board paper, was ‘an indicative scenario’ based on ‘likely future variables’.
The workforce planning exercise, from HEE North, looked at a number of future challenges, including ‘how to minimise the GP gap we face (circa 1000 in five years’ time)’.
The GPC said it was a sign that the Government’s commitment to add 5,000 GPs to the workforce by 2020 was unlikely to materialise and, if it did, it would likely fall short of actual demand.
A HEE spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The figure was simply used as an indicative scenario to allow planning for a range of responses, given likely future variables.
‘HEE have to look at a range of scenarios, involving a number of different figures, to allow us to plan the best possible future service, ensuring that the workforce of tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time and in the right place.’
It added it was doing ‘all in its power to enhance recruitment’ andthat it was vital that all NHS regions ‘consider the challenges around the primary care workforce’.
HEE North’s workforce planning exercise included increasing nurse and physician associate numbers in general practice to offset demand faced by GPs.
This comes as Pulse revealed that cuts to the HEE training support budget is already having an impact, and as HEE stressed money saved was being put to good use by investment in the physician and nurse associate training programmes.
But BMA GP committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘Medical associate professions, including physician associates, cannot be substitutes for doctors as they are not trained to provide the same specialist care to patients.
‘Whilst GP practices desperately need to expand the multi-disciplinary clinical practitioner team to support them with the workload, what practices need most desperately is more GPs to both see patients and manage their care.’
Dr Kasaraneni said that the new Government ‘must learn from the mistakes of its predecessors and put in place a long term, sustainable plan that enables general practice to recruit the number of GPs, nurses and other clinical practitioners that the NHS badly needs’, or existing standards would slip.
He added: ‘A commitment must now be given to properly fund medical education and training. There can be absolutely no suggestion that doctors can be replaced with anyone other than doctors.’
Bridging the GP gap
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt made a commitment to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020 ahead of the 2015 general election.
But even if these GPs are delivered, the RCGP expects 10,000 more GPS will be needed, while primary care researchers have said 12,000 more GPs by 2020 would be needed in their ‘best case scenario’.
This comes as intake into GP training has remained below HEE’s target of 3,250 places a year. In recent years the overall number of new GP trainees has increased but there has been significant gaps left in training programmes across the North of England and the Midlands.
As part of plans to make up for the shortfall of GPs, HEE has been given a mandate to deliver 5,000 other clinical professionals, including nurses, pharmacists and 1,000 physician’s associates to support general practice.