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GP vacancies in one region set to double in a year

Exclusive The number of GP vacancies in Essex is set to double in the next year, GP leaders have warned following one of the largest GP workforce surveys yet.

A survey by Essex CCGs and the LMC of 63% of GP practices in the county – covering some 1.3 million patients – found that at least 55 GPs are planning to retire in the next year, while there are a current 50.5 posts vacant.

Out of the vacant posts, 80% have now been unfilled for more than three months leading to fears around how the retiring GPs will be replaced.

Essex LMC chief executive said that there is a potential that we are ‘heading for disaster’.

There are no current workforce statistics on the number of vacancies, but a Pulse survey of 440 GPs earlier this year found that one in ten GP partnership positions have been left vacant for more than a year, and a quarter have been vacant for over six months.

But Essex has had particular problems, with the local Health Education England board providing finding for GP practices to offer £10,000 ‘golden hello’ payments, while Pulse revealed that there is one GP for every 8,000 patients in Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.

NHS North East Essex CCG, where the LMC said there is a ‘well-publicised recruitment crisis’, has the highest number of current vacancies reported by practices at 19, and 14 of these have been left unfilled for more than three months.

A further 11 of North East Essex GPs are planning to leave their practices within the next year, but Mid Essex is to be the hardest hit next year with 15 planned GP departures.

The LMC said it could ‘only speculate’ as to what the reasons were behind the exodus, but said the removal of MPIG would have had a ‘significant effect’.

Essex LMC chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘One can only speculate on the reason for the predicted problem in Mid Essex, but the current re-distribution of resources within general practice, particularly the removal of the correction factor, will have a significant adverse effect on general practice in this CCG.’

Commening on the survey results overall, Dr Balmer said: ‘It doesn’t look like a disaster, it’s patchy.

‘Whether we are heading for a disaster is another question because we have got 50 vacancies now, but 55 are planning to leave within a year so that is 55 on top of that. Because most of the current vacancies have been present for more than three months there is a concern that we are beginning to build up a backlog.’

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