A review by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) raises concern that many doctors have yet to see changes promised by the Department of Health’s five year Forward View initiative which aims to increase the number of family doctors by 5,000.
The plan pledged to provide more staff and support to the the profession which is struggling to cope with increased patient demand, and longer opening hours.
But a survey of GPs for the report found that many doctors are still struggling under their workloads, and 39 per cent think they are unlikely to still be working for the NHS in five years time.
The RCGP said the findings sparked fears the profession ‘could reach breaking point’ unless progress on the shake-up is accelerated.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the RCGP, said: “We know we’re only one year into a five-year plan, but GPs are desperate – they really, truly want to deliver the best possible care for patients, but the pressures they are under are unbearable.
“It takes at least three years in speciality training for new doctors to enter the workforce as independent consultant GPs, so whilst it’s fantastic that more foundation doctors are choosing general practice this year, if more people are leaving the profession than entering it, we’re fighting a losing battle.”
The College’s Annual Assessment of the plan, that was launched in April 2016, recognises that NHS England is making progress in delivering many of its approximately 100 pledges – and that the commitment to spend an additional £2.4 billion each year on general practice by 2020/21 is on track.
But it found the plan is not having an impact on frontline general practice and patient care to the extent and with the speed that is needed. Latest figures from NHS digital show GP numbers have actually fallen since last September.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the British Medical Association’s GP committee chairman, said: “Despite the GP workforce shrinking again last year, the Government has continued to promise 5,000 extra GPs to patients. It is time to admit that this pledge is now unachievable.
“In order to create a stable GP workforce, the Government must expand the number of GPs entering the profession, and urgently address the underlying issues, particularly the unsafe workload pressure, behind the recruitment and retention crisis in general practice.”