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The RCGP Push for Doctor Recruitment maybe Missing the Point

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If the government and the NHS don’t take drastic action very quickly, the NHS could be short of almost 10,000 GPs within four years. That’s the conclusion of a study by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). This shortfall is the number it predicts based on a number of factors, including:

- The number of GPs aged over 55 today

- The expected growth of the patient population over the next four years

In support of its forecast, the RCGP has produced a series of short films – marketing clips, really – designed to entice medical students into general practice. The ‘Think GP’ series is certainly worth watching, though I think that many current GPs will marvel at the glamorous and relaxed career that they’re missing out on!

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GP closures – not new news

The RCGP has projected that as many as 600 GP practices will have to close if more GPs are not recruited. This rapid increase in closures is not really new news, though:

- In 2014, The Mail Online reported that 500 GP practices had closed in five years, with a net loss of 5% of all GP practices in the UK. The speed of closures had accelerated, with lack of funding and patient demand top of the list of reasons for closures.

- In January 2016, Pulse reported that 200,000 patients had been forced to register with a new GP, or travel further to see their existing GP during 2015. It also revealed that the number of practices closing altogether or shutting down branch surgeries had increased by 40% from 2014.

With the release of the January 2016 Pulse report, GPC Deputy Chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said, “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for small practices to cope with rising levels of bureaucracy and manage their workload. Often they work in inner-city areas serving deprived communities, which can be really quite challenging. They haven’t had the investment in premises and other types of development, so it’s very difficult to attract new GPs to go in there and work alongside them.”

We’ve previously written about the lack of new trainees coming through and GP closures. As long ago as October 2014 we were asking questions about the 2015 GP Contract. In September of the same year, we wrote about the GP shortage and how it was being made worse by undervalued doctors taking flight abroad. We’ve discussed doctors’ stress levels, underfunding, poor work practices, and an NHS system that appears to be constantly moving the goalposts.

The RCGP quite rightly says that, “General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS, with 90% of patient contacts in the health service being conducted by family doctors and their teams.”

It absolutely nails it when it describes GP practices as “part of the fabric of their local communities, and the relationship that family doctors build with their patients over time remains a key reason why, when properly resourced, it is one of the most satisfying jobs there is.”

And therein lies the rub. Those three words near the end of that last sentence describe exactly why so many GP practices are preparing to close their doors: “When properly resourced.”

The RCGP marketing clips as described earlier are accompanied with this description of the job of being a GP:

“A career in general practice offers a great deal of flexibility. It allows you to fit the job around other major commitments, such as having a young family. It gives you the chance to practice in the region of your choice and to decide whether to be wholly a generalist or to develop skills in a specific area as a GP with a special interest.”

There are only three words missing from this description, and they should be placed at its beginning. For the career of a GP can be all of these things… when properly resourced.

Here at Esupplies we believe that the key to recruiting more trainees and doctors in the GP practice is to ensure that practices are properly resourced. It is this need to which the government and the NHS need to wake up.

A final thought on the state of the UK’s GP practices

I have a friend whose father was a teacher in the late 1960s. He refused to issue homework. His feeling was that if he couldn’t teach what he was required to teach in the allotted time during the school day, then either the system was incapable or he was. In either case, he would not want to work as a teacher.

It’s a warning that the government would do well to heed with regards to the GP crisis. It’s not the doctors that are incapable, it is the system that is driving them elsewhere.

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If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me -alex.henman@esuppliesmedical.co.uk- 01865 261451

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