GP recruitment crisis beckons as 40% of doctors approach retirement

Credit: This story was first seen on the i newspaper

The NHS faces a future funding crisis because not enough doctors and nurses are being recruited to replace the large number who are due for retirement, the i newspaper reports.

An i investigation into blueprints for the NHS around the country reveals scant planning as almost 40 per cent of GPs approach retirement.

The problem may be made worse by the government’s plans to reorganise the NHS, with some areas seeking to reduce the number of GPs on the books, others expecting GPs to only see the most complex patients with minor ailments dealt with by pharmacists, and at least one hiring lesser-qualified ‘care navigators’ and physician associates to deal with some patients.

A similar issue is also looming in nursing, with the number of recruits plummeting by 23% due to the removal of the government’s bursary scheme and applications from the European Union plunging by 90% due to Brexit.

It comes a week after the Royal College of Midwives reported a similar recruitment issue with the number of new recruits failing to match the number of midwives due for retirement.

The impact on an already overstretched service is likely to result in longer waiting times, difficulty getting GP appointments and more pressure on staff who are already working long and stressful hours.

Plans for the reorganisation of the NHS to help save £22bn over the next five years are putting a greater focus on general practices taking appointments currently done in hospitals – while GPs will focus on patients with the most complex long-term illnesses and are less likely to see other patients with more minor ailments.

But there are fears the government’s target of recruiting 5,000 more doctors to the profession by 2020 will not make up for the expected loss of many senior GPs going into retirement.

The recruitment target is part of the GP Forward View plans that are promising an extra £2.4bn for general practice, as well as an extra 5,000 support staff for surgeries by 2020.

But recent NHS figures have shown the number of GPs in the country dropped by almost 100 in the past year, down to 34,495 full-time equivalents in September 2016 compared to 34,592 the year before.

The RCGP says frontline GPs ‘are already facing a severe crisis’. An NHS England spokesman said: “We are reversing the historic underinvestment in general practice with an extra £2.4bn a year by 2020/21 – a 14% real-terms increase – and are on track to deliver more GP recruits than ever before. The GP Forward View’s initiatives to further boost the workforce are now kicking in and we are supporting local areas to deliver their Sustainability and Transformation Plans.”

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