GENERAL practice is "running on empty" with ever increasing patient demand and falling GP numbers, says the Royal College of General Practitioners in setting out a new Workforce Roadmap.
The plan details what must be done to ensure general practice has enough GPs and practice staff to deliver safe, high-quality patient care, now and in the future. The RCGP is calling for urgent attention to be given to workforce planning, education and training – and the quality of working life for GPs – if the Government is to achieve its manifesto pledge of the 6,000 more GPs and 50m more patient consultations.
The RCGP points out that from September to November 2019, GPs in England undertook 41.9m patient consultations, which is 450,000 more than the same period the previous year. This despite the fact the number of fully-qualified full-time-equivalent GPs fell from 28,654 to 28,315 from September 2018 to September 2019. This means that GPs delivered 1.1 per cent more appointments with 1.2 per cent fewer FTE fully-qualified GPs.
Looking at all health professionals working in general practice in England there were 84.6m appointments in the three months to November 2019 – an increase of 2.7 per cent on the same period in the previous year.
- clear targets for expanding the entire general practice workforce and for the forthcoming People Plan to include comprehensive detail on how this will be delivered, based on the roadmap
- a commitment to increase GP training places to 4,000 in 2020/21 and to 5,000 soon after
- significant investment into initiatives to improve GP workload and retain existing GPs in the profession.
In a letter to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, the new Chair of the RCGP, Professor Martin Marshall, said: "Unfortunately, general practice has been running on empty for too long and GPs are working under intense pressure with a workload that is escalating and causing many to burn out and leave the profession – and facing difficulties recruiting GPs and other members of staff to manage this demand.
"The impact of these measures will be to significantly improve the access to our service and the quality of the care we can give to our patients."
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC chair at the BMA, commented: "For too long now, GPs and their teams have been dealing with a severe workforce crisis in primary care. Patients are waiting longer than ever before to get an appointment and colleagues, who have no choice but to pick up extra work, are exhausted.
"While there remains a desperate need for additional investment, we know that money alone isn’t going to solve the problem. Alongside it must be a coherent, sensible plan to get our workforce back on track."