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Revealed: DH set to miss 5,000 new GP target by more than half

Exclusive The Government will fail to attract even half of the 5,000 extra GPs it promised by 2020, a Pulse analysis has revealed.

Pulse has calculated that, unless there are drastic changes in the number of people leaving and entering the profession, the Government is on course for increasing the workforce by 2,100 in the best case scenario.

The GPC reacted to Pulse’s analysis, stating that it showed the Government’s pledge to be ‘wholly unrealistic’.

Health secretary first confirmed ‘plans to train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs’ by 2020 at the Conservative Party conference in 2014.

But Pulse’s analysis reveals that the Government are a long way off attracting this number on current trends.

At the current rate, there will be around 13,000 GPs entering the system by 2020, including:

But this is balanced out by:

These figures don’t take into account an increase in the number of GPs that are looking at taking into early retirement, with a BMA survey last year revealing that one in three GPs are looking to retire within the next five years.

The analysis also doesn’t take into account the effect of the junior doctor contract imposition, which the BMA has claimed will turn off younger doctors entering a career in UK medicine.

GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘The political pledge to recruit 5,000 GPs by 2020 is wholly unrealistic. Pulse’s data analysis shows how short we are likely to be.

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‘We actually need a lot more GPs than this arbitrarily chosen figure to maintain a basic level of service to patients. With 600 GP trainee posts left unfilled last year and large sections of the workforce telling the BMA they intend to retire, there is little chance the Government will get anywhere near this target.’

The Government has changed the rhetoric on the target in recent months, and is now emphasising that the target included ‘doctors in general practice’ – which allows them to count GP trainees.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Pulse’s figures don’t take the whole picture into account.

‘NHS England and HEE are working closely with the BMA and RCGP on a 10-point plan which sets out exactly how we will achieve this. We have been clear that our target includes registrars.’

How the Government’s target has been diluted

Jeremy Hunt - online

Jeremy Hunt – online

The DH now claims that the target of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 will also include doctors in training, effectively giving it three more years to boost numbers.

But this was not health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s original pledge to the Conservative Party conference in 2014. His words were: ‘Tory conference, I can today confirm plans to train and retain an extra 5,000 GPs.’

And this was the rhetoric leading up to general election, with the DH saying it was committed to bringing ‘5,000 more GPs’ into the system by 2020.

But this rhetoric changed when Mr Hunt announced his ‘new deal’ in June 2015. The health secretary also said in the subsequent Q&A session that there would be ‘flexibility [in the target] because in some parts of the country it is very hard to recruit GPs’.