Almost 90% of GP practices are struggling to find locums to cover shifts amid growing pressures on the workforce, the BMA has said.
Its survey of almost 3,000 GP practices also showed that just one in ten GP practices in England is able to get by without locum cover.
The GPC said the fact that the ‘vast majority’ of GPs practices are ‘having to rely routinely on temporary cover’ was adding to growing evidence of the pressures that general practice is under, calling on the Government to act.
Key findings of the survey of 2,814 GP practices included:
- Almost half of practices (46%) ‘frequently’ struggle to find locums, and a further 40% struggle ‘occassionally’;
- In the worst affected areas – the South and the South West – 61% and 57% of practices, respectively, frequently struggle with filling locum shifts;
- Only 10% of practices say they cope without locums, although in some regions this was even fewer (in the South only 5% cope and in the West Midlands the figure was only 6%).
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that the situation was likely to negatively impact on patients.
He said that ’increasingly GP practices are facing longer term vacancies because of the recruitment crisis gripping general practice’ and if ’a GP locum cannot be found in these situations many practices struggle to offer enough appointments to meet their patients’ needs’.
Dr Nagpaul said: ’These results show that many GP practices are struggling to find cover to plug the staffing gaps they face and that the vast majority are having to rely routinely on temporary cover.
’In this climate, it is clear there are no longer enough GP locums to cover the widening gaps in the GP workforce. This is undoubtedly adding to the incredible pressure on GP services which has left it in a state of emergency and struggling to provide even basic care to patients.
‘The Government needs to begin addressing this crisis and deliver its promised support package for general practice. We need a long term, well financed plan to prevent GP services from collapsing.’
GP practice demand for doctors is rising faster than the workforce
Dr chaand nagpaul 3×2
Dr Nagpaul warned that the worrying findings come as last year more than 600 GP trainee places were unfilled, and as more than a third of GPs are estimated to be considering retirement in the next five years.
This year to date, Health Education England has seen a slight improvement in GP recruitment, but still 30% of training places are unfilled after the first round.
The news comes as a Pulse investigation last month revealed that the Government is on course for failing to attract even half of the 5,000 extra GPs it promised by 2020,
At the time, the GPC reacted to Pulse’s analysis, stating that it showed the Government’s pledge to be ‘wholly unrealistic’.