Offering GPs more opportunities to have portfolio careers will help with recruitment and retention, an NHS England director has suggested.
Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS England’s director of the Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme, told the RCGP Annual Conference in Glasgow today that there is a need to ‘make general practice an attractive place to be’.
She said that offering GPs different opportunities within a portfolio career could help practices that are struggling to recruit, but could also help to retain GPs.
Professor Owolabi, who is a GP working in the Midlands, said: ‘How do we continue to make general practice an attractive place to be? There’s something about a portfolio career – I remember about nine years ago being asked to lead the turnaround of a failing GP practice, and it didn’t matter what the headline salary we advertised was, we didn’t get a single application.
‘But as we invited people in and explained how we were going to liaise with the local community trust for them to be able to do other things they were interested in, suddenly we overcame that initial hump of absolute silence.
‘Because people could see, yes I will be a GP in that surgery, but I will be able to do other things – so I think if we maybe think across that dimension it will help us, both with recruitment and also retention.’
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne told the conference that ‘not enough effort’ has been put into GP retention.
She said: ‘I think that we need to continue to advocate for more GPs – of course the long term workforce plan is suggesting that there will be a lot more GPs in the future, but the future might be a good 10 years off.
‘And in the meantime, we know from our surveys that almost a quarter of us are looking at leaving in the next five years.
‘So those youngsters, those young GPs will be coming into what I called a wasteland – so I think retention is a really, really important thing that we should be concentrating on.
‘We should be pushing Government to set up a nationally well-funded retention programme so that is easy to find help when you need it.
‘By the time you get to the point where you are ready to leave the profession, it’s too late. Nothing anyone can say will keep you there.’
As part of a major investigation on recruitment and retention earlier this year, GPs have told Pulse that taking on portfolio roles could help retaining younger fully-trained GPs, as it stops them from leaving the profession entirely or emigrating.
Earlier this week, ahead of the annual conference, Professor Hawthorne called for a patient safety alert system in general practice, modelled on the OPEL framework, with practices supported by overflow hubs and additional locums.
This formed the top demand in the RCGP’s new ‘general election manifesto’, published at the start of the annual conference.
Other demands in the manifesto included freeing up GPs’ time so they can spend it with patients, a new nationally funded ‘one-stop-shop’ retention programme and investment in training capacity in general practice.
But Labour has criticised the manifesto, saying the proposed solutions are ‘completely counter’ to what both GPs and patients need.