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May deadline for NHS England to report GP retention plans to MPs

The Government has been given a deadline of May to report back to MPs on how it is dealing with high levels of GP retirement.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee, published today, pointed out that despite ‘a string’ of NHS England initiatives aimed at boosting recruitment and retention of GPs, ‘in the last year the number of full-time equivalent GPs has fallen, driven partly by GPs retiring early’.

It noted there were also ‘worrying variations in unfilled GP training places across the country’, and also highlighted concerns over nursing worforce shortages.

In response, the PAC said: ‘The Department and NHS England should, by May 2018, report back to the Committee on what action they are taking to tackle key workforce issues, including nursing shortages and high levels of GP retirement and also provide evidence to show whether current plans are adequate to tackle this serious problem.’

It said this comes as the number of full-time equivalent GPs fell over the last year, from 34,126 at the end of 2016 to 33,872 at the end of 2017. Meanwhile, the London fill rate for GP training places was 106%, but in the north-east it was 77%.

The PAC added: ‘NHS England also told us that it faces a particular issue with early retirement of GPs, caused in part by changes to the pensions system.’

The report also raised concerns around the new integrated care systems being set up across England, with the PAC finding that ‘NHS England and NHS Improvement could not clearly articulate how accountability will work under the new integrated care systems being set up’.

It said: ‘NHS England and NHS Improvement should work with the new integrated care systems to define and test how accountability should operate under these new arrangements, and should publish model guidance by September 2018.’