GP retention just as vital as recruitment, says RCGP

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to the latest GP workforce figures from NHS Digital. She states that, whilst its immensely positive that GP recruitment rates are continuing to increase, more work needs to be done to retain existing staff

This is an edited version of an article first published by the RCGP

Here is a full transcript of what Stokes-Lampard had to say.

“It’s encouraging to see a rise in full-time equivalent GPs over the last quarter – and an even more pronounced rise in members of the wider practice team – but the reality is that we still have fewer GPs in practice than we did a year ago, despite our workload continuing to escalate.

“A lot of hard work has gone into boosting recruitment into general practice and, as a result, we have more GPs in training than ever before. But it takes at least 10 years to train a family doctor from entering medical school, and we need more GPs now.

“If more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it, we are fighting a losing battle. We need to see initiatives being implemented to help retain our existing, experienced workforce – and key to that will be addressing workload to make working in general practice more sustainable.

“Expanding the wider practice team is an important element of this, and something that features heavily in Fit for the Future – the college’s vision for general practice – so it’s great that overall numbers of these roles are increasing, but they must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, and numbers of some of our colleagues in vital roles, such as practice nurses, also continue to struggle.

“The government promised in the GP Forward View that we would see 5,000 more GPs by 2020, as well as 5,000 more members of the wider practice team. While the latter has been exceeded, and it’s imperative we keep this momentum up; it is the number of GPs that we remain desperately short of and, without resolving this, we will struggle to continue providing the world-class care our patients expect and deserve.

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“Being a GP can be the best job in the world – it’s intellectually stimulating, hugely varied, and rewarding – but we need to make it a more attractive career option for those who, because of the pressures, feel disenchanted, as well as for doctors who have already taken the decision to leave.

“NHS Improvement’s interim workforce strategy needs to include comprehensive plans to further boost GP recruitment, make it easier for trained GPs to return to NHS practice, and to keep existing GPs in the profession longer – as well as initiatives to expand the multi-disciplinary teams in general practice.”

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