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Today, we are launching our ‘Postcards from the edge’ series, speaking to GPs in the towns and cities where general practice is collapsing.
We start in Plymouth, where GPs talk of getting ‘four hours’ sleep a night’ due to workload – a situation they foresaw ten years’ ago. One in five practices in the city have handed their contracts back, and life is becoming intolerable for the remaining practices.
They are in a dilemma – on the one hand, they need to publicise the situation. On the other, publicising the situation will make it tougher for them to recruit the GPs they desperately need to relieve the situation.
One thing all these places have in common is that they are struggling to recruit, and the latest GP workforce figures give some indication why.
Since health secretary Jeremy Hunt set his target of increasing the workforce by 5,000, the NHS has actually lost 1,000 full time equivalent GPs.
Measures such as the GP Forward View don’t seem to be working, and even the radical option – thousands of GPs brought in from overseas – are making little impact.
The solutions are obvious: make the profession more attractive through proper funding, removing pointless regulation, and not bringing in gimmicky ideas like seven-day access.
But without these measures, we can expect to add more and more ‘Postcards from the edge’ over the coming years.