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College report highlights severe GP shortages

Many areas of England will need at least 50% increase in GP numbers over next 5 years

Louise Prime

Thursday, 05 February 2015

A huge increase in the current number of GPs will be needed in many areas of England within the next five years, reveal the most recent projections. The Royal College of General Practitioners also warns in its latest report that this year alone, patients in England will have to wait at least a week to see a GP or practice nurse on more than 67 million occasions.

The College has analysed statistics from NHS England’s GP Patient Survey and published its newest ‘league table’ as Parliament prepares for today’s debate on the pressures facing general practice. It predicts that England’s growing population will mean an additional 8,000 full-time equivalent GPs will be needed across the country by 2020. And as a result of existing local shortages of GPs, 16 areas of will need an increase in GP numbers of at least 50%.

The areas that the College calculates will need the greatest relative increase in GP numbers are: Bexley, which will need an uplift of 87% (83 additional full time equivalent GPs); Redbridge an uplift of 85% (106 more FTE GPs); Swale 74% (36 GPs); Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley 67% (76 GPs); North Kirklees 60% (52 GPs); Slough 59% (41 GPs); Warrington 57% (55 GPs); Corby 57% (18 GPs); Luton 56% (58 GPs); and Barking and Dagenham 56% (56 GPs).

The ten areas that will need the greatest absolute increase in GP numbers are: Nene, which will need an additional 165 FTE GPs (an uplift of 55%); Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will need 132 (26% uplift); East and North Hertfordshire 126 (44%); Birmingham Crosscity 122 (29%); West Kent 114 (48%); West Hampshire 109 (37%); Herts Valleys 108 (33%); Redbridge 106 (85%); Dorset 105 (23%); and Gloucestershire 105 (31%).

The College has also estimated that in 2015, patients in England will have to wait for a week or more to see a GP or practice nurse on 67 million occasions – up from 62.4 million in 2014. This will be the fourth consecutive year in which there has been a significant increase, which it blames on insufficient resourcing for general practice and rapidly growing demand, brought about by the ageing population and more patients being treated for long-term and complex conditions.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “We have only once chance to deliver 8,000 GPs over the course of the next Parliament. The 10-point workforce plan recently launched by NHS England and Health Education England gives us a real opportunity to build up the GP workforce that the nation needs and it is vital that politicians and our partner organisations work with us to make this happen…

“It is vital to ensure that patients can see a GP when they need one. We need to recruit and retain far more family doctors and practice nurses so that we can go on providing high-quality care and services in local communities. We also need to make it easier for trained GPs to return to general practice after a career break.”

She went on: “The fact that this debate in parliament is happening is further evidence … that politicians and decision makers are recognising the terrible situation that GPs have been dealing with for too long.”

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