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GP recruitment, when are we going to address the crisis?
It seems GPs are rarely out of the headlines, from public outrage that GPs could be offered money to diagnose dementia to the 7 day working week; the media is certainly giving the public the perception that GPs are a huge issue in the nation’s healthcare service.
The GP profession it would seem is fed up and understandably so of being told that GP practice is the problem in the NHS and then being heralded as the solution without any help to get there. As the NHS frontline GPs are finding themselves expected to do more and more, there are more consultation requests, patients needing more follow up care and the rise in time pressures on GPs is well documented.
However, one overriding theme which is still to be addressed is the lack of qualified and available doctors looking to work in GP practice; without a clear strategy in place the NHS is going to be facing a crisis if they cannot recruit and retain enough frontline medical professionals. The strain across the rest of the NHS could be insurmountable, especially for accident and emergency departments who would no doubt be left to pick up some of the pieces. The issue is regularly given media coverage, this month by Lord Howe and his outspoken comments but there still doesn’t seem to be any answers.
One clear of example of the problem is in North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group where they are crying out for professional and experienced GPs to join their busy practices. So, what is stopping the medical profession seeking out these roles, the local area for North East Essex offers some great attractions, housing prices in the area have increased by 3% since last year, suggesting a positive outlook for anyone looking to move to the area and some local schools perform well above the national average in exam results. Overall there is a good community feel and some well-respected GP practices in the area.
Practices themselves are bending over backwards to try and attract GPs to join their team, there are some really attractive incentive packages, partnerships and even in some cases GP recruits are being offered up to £20,000 as “golden hello”.
However, perhaps the bigger issue is the lack of new GPs coming through the system, if you throw into the mix that medical students who now choose to take on family doctor training is at its lowest level since 2007 there could soon be a problem of epic proportions meaning there just aren’t enough GPs to recruit, the repercussions for the rest of the NHS could be significant.
Sonia Browne director of Dream Medical comments “the warning from the Royal College is sadly a true reflection of the current situation. They have been quoted as saying as many as 600 GP practices UK-wide could be forced to close within the next year. It is an increasing problem that cannot be addressed merely by recruiters, there’s the short-term issue of attracting GPs but the longer and more concerning issue of the lack of new GPs looking for their first role”
Although the government has outlined plans to inject more money into NHS services, particularly the A&E crisis it has so far failed to address the GP issue significantly to give observers confidence that this is in hand. Indeed, there are many GP practices at financial risk, in some cases they do not have enough funding, they are struggling to recruit qualified employees or their surgeries and equipment are not adequate. This is something that is not going away.