NHS England cannot train enough GPs and nurses to fill gaps, think tanks say

As reported by the BBC, a trio of think tanks have stated that the NHS has no chance of taking on enough GPs and nurses to fill the recruitment shortage

NHS England has stated that it has no chance of training enough GPs and practice nurses to solve the worsening staff shortage crisis.

The Nuffield Trust, King’s Fun and Health Foundation have come together to research the issue, and found that a combination of overseas recruitment, innovation and students grants will be required.

Without this, they believe that, in the next five years, nurse shortages will doubt while GP shortages treble.

Current figures show that around 3,000 GPs are needed, while the country is short over 30,000 nurses.

The government is continuing to push forward with its plan to recruit more staff, despite the NHS losing GPs as quickly as they can be hired.

Report co-author Anita Charlesworth said: “The workforce is the make-or-break issue for the health service.

“Unless staffing shortages are substantially reduced, the recent NHS Long Term Plan can only be a wish list.”

The report recommends that physios and pharmacists take on more GP responsibilities – a concept that is already being put into action – while studying and working in the UK must be made more attractive for nurses.

Training places for doctors and nurses are also being increased by 25%.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to the report with a more hopeful tone. She said: “We agree with the writers of this report that the GP workforce faces significant challenges but we disagree that these are insurmountable.

“We must not, under any circumstances, give up on our aims and endeavours to build the GP workforce – achieving these is vital for the future of the NHS, and patient care.

“The NHS long term plan has aspirations that will benefit patients, but it will need the right workforce to deliver it, and that includes at least 5,000 more family doctors.

“We are extremely grateful to the hard work, skill and dedication of members of the wider practice team – they are pivotal in supporting us to deliver care to over a million patients every day – but they are not GPs and must never be seen as direct substitutes or used to ‘fill the gaps’ long-term where numbers of GPs are insufficient.

“We have already seen that with effective messages, campaigns and innovative thinking we can get across what a fantastic career being a GP can be with the right resources and support, and we currently have more GPs in training than ever before.

“The forthcoming NHS workforce strategy does need to include plans to expand the multi-disciplinary team in general practice. But it is imperative that it also includes 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.

“Taking steps to reduce workload to make working in general practice more sustainable and removing incentives to retire early for GPs who might not necessarily want to, would be sensible places to start.

“This report also highlights the negative impact cuts to the education and training budget have had in recent years, as well as the inadequate social care budget. It is essential the next – and future – spending reviews specifically increase funding for developing the workforce, including for training future GPs.

“There must be a longer-term plan to ensure the pipeline of staff is there to meet patient needs in the future.”

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