NHS England’s Dr Amanda Doyle on how the long-awaited workforce plan aims to change general practice over the next 15 years
It is not news to Pulse readers that GPs and their teams are treating record numbers, with half a million more appointments delivered every week compared with before the pandemic.
We also know this demand is going to increase further still with the number of people in England aged 70 or over increasing by a third since 2010 and they are five times more likely to need a GP appointment than young people.
So, it’s important to ensure that the NHS has a workforce that can meet this demand.
But we know we do not have enough GPs – it is what I hear time and time again when I visit practices across the country, I also know that the workload impact of too few GPs is why many of you are considering leaving the profession.
The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan looks to change that with a commitment to increase the number of speciality GP training places by 50%.
This means 5,000 people will be taking up speciality training places by September 2028, up a quarter on current levels.
All foundation doctors will also have at least one four-month placement in general practice by 2030/31, and GPs in training will be able to spend three full years of their training in primary care settings.
The plan also recognises that retention of experienced staff is critical and offers a greater emphasis on occupational health and well being services for all NHS and General Practice staff.
As the NHS has done throughout its 75-year history, it must evolve to reflect the current needs of patients.
Research shows that around one in five GP appointments are for non-medical reasons, so we need to make sure that these patients are accessing the right health professional and if necessary, are redirected to the right service elsewhere.
Some of that is about continuing to expand the primary care workforce and progress by PCNs has already been made with over 29,000 extra staff being recruited to GP teams since 2019 – meaning patients can receive specialist advice from other clinicians, such as mental health practitioners, social prescribers, and pharmacists.
The plan will ensure even more patients can be seen through this route with an extra 15,000 patient care staff and 5,000 more nurses joining GP teams by 2036/37.
We also know that we cannot train more GPs and increase our workforce to meet demand without ensuring that we have the estates and infrastructure to support these staff and this plan recognises this and commits to addressing the issue.
All of the above is going to take time and will not change general practice overnight, but I am confident that this plan will help to make primary care more sustainable and a better place to work and be treated over the next 15 years.
Dr Amanda Doyle is national director for primary care and community services at NHS England