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MPs: Burnout ‘emergency’ requires workforce planning overhaul to sort huge GP shortfall

MPs: Burnout ‘emergency’ requires workforce planning overhaul to sort huge GP shortfall

The NHS ‘emergency’ of staff burnout cannot be tackled without a complete overhaul of workforce planning, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee has warned.

Burnout amongst staff  – already a major problem before the pandemic and now at emergency levels – poses a risk to the future functioning of both the NHS and social care, MPs said.

An inquiry into staff burnout found that shortages were a key driver and that NHS workforce planning was ‘at best opaque and at worst was responsible for unacceptable pressure on staff’.

A report from the committe said there was no accurate, public projection of workforce requirements across NHS specialisms over the next five to ten years.

Among the figures cited by the report was a prediction from the Health Foundation of a shortfall of 7,000 full-time equivalent GPs in 2023/24 rising to 11,500 FTE GPs by 2028/29.

During the inquiry MPs had been warned that if staff worked to contract and worked to rule, the NHS would not be able to provide anything like the quality of care it needs to. ‘Part of the problem is that we are relying relentlessly on the good will of our staff’, MPs were told.

The committee had heard that a mismatch between rising demand and capacity over the previous decade had led to frontline staff being asked to work ever harder to close the gap, which had resulted in an impossible and unsustainable workload.

One anonymous practice manager had told MPs that Covid-19 had increased the amount of patient contact explaining: ‘We’ve definitely never worked so hard in our lives as we’ve worked in the last year. It’s been relentless.’

The report also noted that staff from minority ethnic backgrounds faced specific challenges in relation to workplace culture, burnout and resilience in addition to clear evidence that they had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Reports from Public Health England and the BAME Communities Advisory Group had already identified a series of actions on this and the Department of Health and Social Care should nowset out a timeframe for how it plans to implement those recommendations, the report said.

Health Education England must publish objective, transparent and independently audited annual reports on five, ten and 20-year workforce projections including an assessment of whether sufficient numbers are being trained, the committee recommended.

The additional mental health support for health and care staff put in place during Covid-19 should be maintained at the same level after the pandemic, it added.

And NHS England should review the targets it sets which may risk of ‘inadvertently creating a culture which deprioritises care of both staff and patients’, it said.

Health and Social Care Committee chair, Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘Workforce burnout across the NHS and care systems now presents an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services.
‘Staff face unacceptable pressure with chronic excessive workload identified as a key driver of workforce burnout. It will simply not be possible to address the backlog caused by the pandemic unless these issues are addressed.’

Dr David Wrigley, BMA wellbeing lead, said: ‘The fact that we have an overstretched, understaffed workforce is not new, but this report makes clear that all health and care staff desperately need Government support now.

‘Health and care staff suffered stress and work related anxiety before the pandemic but it is now far more serious and we believe the current level of staff burnout and stress presents a worrying risk to the future functioning of the health and care system and safe patient care.’ 

He added that the BMA supported the recommendation for continuous and transparent assessments of workforce shortages and future staffing requirements as the only way to provide accountability.

‘We also welcome the recommendations to address the inequalities faced by health and care staff from minority ethnic backgrounds including the specific challenges in relation to workplace culture, burnout and resilience.’

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said GPs had been working under intense pressures for more than a decade which were only exacerbated by the pandemic.

‘General practice has made a remarkable contribution to the pandemic effort with GPs and our teams working flat out, delivering essential care to patients – a record of nearly 14 million consultations were delivered in the four weeks from mid-April to mid-May – as well as their leading role in the Covid vaccination programme, with 75% of vaccinations being administered in primary care.

‘We simply don’t have enough GPs or other members of the practice team to meet demand and general practice is only set to get busier as we support our communities’ recovery from the pandemic.

He called on urgent action from the Government including delivering on their pledge of 6,000 more GPs and thousands more members of the wider practice team by 2024/2025 but also more initiatives to retain experienced GPs, including by tackling an ‘undoable’ workload.

‘This will help to make the job of a GP more manageable again so that we keep hardworking and dedicated GPs where they want to be – caring for patients, as well as ensure patients can continue to have access to the care that they need.’



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

John Graham Munro 8 June, 2021 5:43 am

What’s new? How long did this article take to write?

Turn out The Lights 8 June, 2021 8:19 am

The irony Imac in charge of the committee who are making these weasel words. Remind us who was the longest serving captain of the ss NHS while it was sailing towards the iceberg. Doesnt matter now nothing would change the plans of an awful lot or our colleagues from heading towards the exit over the next 2 years or so.

Iain Chalmers 8 June, 2021 11:14 am

Yep another reorganisation/re-jig will definitely sort things nicely!

Meanwhile on Planet Earth??

Simon Taylor 8 June, 2021 11:48 am

This has nothing to do with Hunt’s concern for the NHS and everything to do with him positioning himself to challenging Johnson for the Tory leadership down the line.

Decorum Est 8 June, 2021 12:41 pm

Agree with all above
GPs are still obliged to waste time and energy on a proven pointless appraisal system (many have declined and just retired from the profession).
With changes to AA and LTA, even more medics see no point in remaining in service.
Hunt continues to spout b….x

David jenkins 8 June, 2021 1:05 pm

Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘Workforce burnout across the NHS and care systems now presents an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services.
‘Staff face unacceptable pressure with chronic excessive workload identified as a key driver of workforce burnout. It will simply not be possible to address the backlog caused by the pandemic unless these issues are addressed.’

remind me who the longest serving health minister was ? and how long he had to address these issues ? and how many times he was warned ? and what he did to make everyone’s lives earier or more pleasant ??

Vinci Ho 8 June, 2021 1:16 pm

Oh! Behave(Austin Power tone), Agent Hunt 😂

Patrufini Duffy 8 June, 2021 3:18 pm

I don’t think anyone cares anymore. It’s just groundhog day. You can’t win here. They allow 85 million people (and the rest of the world) the priveleged complaining right to self-refer to GPs. And then you talk about burnout? Watch what happens when your referrals go sky high, and staff leave. And covid returns.

Dr N 8 June, 2021 4:16 pm

‘lets have a meeting and state the bleeding obvious’


Kosta MANIS 8 June, 2021 6:05 pm

Good Heavens! Is this THE Jeremy Hunt who pronounced himself “the champion of patient safety”, whilst overseeing crumbling hospitals, worsening waiting times for cancer care, hospital operations and emergency treatment? The one who caused the biggest exodus of nurses, consultants and GPs? The one who set health targets and missed them all, found false solutions and false funding to NHS’s chronic ills, and the one who blamed for his failures NHS staff and even patients but never himself? The one who buried Exercise Cygnus resulting in the current catastrophic pandemic?

Michael Mullineux 8 June, 2021 9:26 pm

Naked smarmy oleaginous politics

Simon Taylor 9 June, 2021 8:36 am

Hunt moaning about the collapsing NHS workforce is like someone taking a dump on your pillow before bedtime and then asking you in the morning how you slept .

John Graham Munro 9 June, 2021 9:39 am

Just been listening to one of those ghastly T.V. doctors in his blooming garden, (instead of his surgery), telling us how exhausted he and fellow G,Ps are during these challenging times. He then went on to inform us that Hedgehogs must not be given milk but ”cat food” as long as it is not fish based

Dr N 9 June, 2021 10:07 am

Perhaps he was a locum John?

David jenkins 9 June, 2021 11:10 am

in wales we have an excellent saying:

“the wheel goes round”

show a bit of patience – as more and more gp’s leave, more of the remainers will burn out, and eventually hand back their contracts. then even the most stubborn politician will have to accept it is their doing. THEY are responsible for the actual system, WE only run it and work in the shop.

in wales, the penny has dropped a bit – and the welsh nhs realised that more and more were handing back their contract, leaving the welsh nhs to actually run, and staff, the shop when nobody wanted to work in it !

in prestatyn, all the gp’s (all ten of them) left on the same day. google it if you don’t believe me !

at this point the penny dropped, and they moderated their language a bit !

things are a bit better now – though they are still trying to throw their weight around.

for example, applying IR35 to sole trader locums. result ? fees have gone up from about £700/day for a normal practice, to about £1200 for a practice (mis)managed by the local health boards. many locums on the england/wales border have decided to turn down all work for the welsh nhs, and now only work in england. even the stupidest politician can’t ignore these facts !

The Prime Minister 9 June, 2021 10:57 pm

Can we only have real GPs commenting rather than Daily Mail stooges.😬

Andrew Mimnagh 12 June, 2021 10:33 am

We really need politicians of every brand to stop trying to “help” the NHS
As far as I can recall every “workforce increase” has ended up with fewer of what ever they where helping.
I would not call for politicians to “reverse”their “help” so their incompetence causes a workforce rise- but only because the Daily Mail (Purveyor of Incorrect information since 1917*) would definitely take it out of context.
*1917 – publishing an incorrect and harmful gas mask design for the public to make and send to the troops WW1