Two long-awaited documents which will influence the future of general practice are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
According to reports this morning, the long-awaited ‘workforce plan’ produced by NHS England will point out that the health service is already operating with 154,000 fewer full-time staff than it needs and that number could balloon to 571,000 staff by 2036 on current trends.
The 107-page blueprint, which was leaked to the Guardian, is currently being examined by ministers and sets out ‘detailed proposals to end the understaffing that has plagued the health service for years.’
The leaked report also said that without ‘radical action,’ the NHS in England will have 28,000 fewer GPs, 44,000 fewer community nurses and an even greater lack of paramedics within 15 years.
In particular, services in rural areas, which already struggle to attract enough staff, will be left ‘unable to give patients the help and treatment they need,’ the report warned.
The Guardian also said that chancellor Jeremy Hunt is ‘playing a key role in behind-the-scenes moves by the Treasury’ to water down NHS England’s proposals to double the number of doctors that the UK trains and increase the number of new nurses trained every year by 77% as it would cost several billion pounds to do that.
Meanwhile, health secretary Steve Barclay is expected to publish a ‘primary care recovery plan’ in the next week or so.
The Times’s report focused on measures announced as part of the GP contract, including those designed to improve access, and the stipulation that GPs will be told it is no longer acceptable to ask patients to ‘call back later,’ but must assess their problems or signpost them to another services, including pharmacies.
Last week, NHS England was urged to ‘be honest with the public’ about capacity constraints in its upcoming recovery plan for general practice.
NHS Confederation warned NHS England that it must ‘be honest with the public’ about what primary care can realistically deliver.
It outlined ten priorities for the new plan, which focus on workforce, investment in estates, integration with the wider system as well as ‘honesty and realism’.
The NHS Confederation emphasised the current demand on GPs saying that primary care ‘has been asked to do more with less in real terms over the past decade’.
At the beginning of the month, NHS England announced changes to the GP contract for 2023/24 which included more stipulations around access, including the requirement for GP practices to offer patients an assessment or signpost them to an appropriate service on first contact.