Solving the GP workforce’s problems

BMJ Careers 5th August 2014 publishes a report by Matthew Limb: Solving the GP workforce’s problems

With due respect to BMJ Careers, and to Matthew Limb, NHSreality feels the underlying lack of honest and open debate on the philosophy, and the cultural/political aspects, of today’s Regional Health Services is what puts off many..  Others are not keen to work as self-employed as the GP training programmes, which used to include business skills, no longer do so. Rationing needs to be overt to bring back engagement by the nursing, physiotherapy, psychology and midwifery professions as well as the doctors..

Last month, a report commissioned by the government concluded that recruitment and retention problems in the GP workforce need to be tackled immediately. Matthew Limb looks at some of the potential solutions

The GP Taskforce report on the scale of the workforce crisis in general practice raised two important questions.[1] One was how a profession facing deep problems can be made more attractive as a career option to young people to boost numbers of general practitioners (GPs) in the future. The other was what can be done to prevent experienced GPs leaving when services are buckling under the weight of patient demand and unprecedented workloads.

The taskforce recommended enticing new recruits via a “professionally-led marketing strategy” aimed at a wide range of audiences to present an “accurate and positive image” of general practice. “We need concerted initiatives to promote general practice as a positive career choice, from school into medical school and then foundation programme training,” its chair, Simon Plint, says.

Tim Ballard, vice chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, believes a campaign is necessary but that it would be something of a “double-edged sword” in the context of a profession “on its knees.” He told BMJ Careers, “It has the potential to make people think, ‘If things are as bad as that then it’s not for me.’”

Ballard welcomes the idea of marketing aimed at undergraduates and foundation year levels, though he says he wasn’t aware that there was evidence showing an approach targeting school sixth formers would work. A compelling and “exciting” case for general practice could be put to people starting out in medicine and effectively turn the “current challenge that we face on its head,” he says. “The attractive side is the long-term relationship we have with patients and families, delivering holistic and whole person care.”….

…The taskforce said a powerful case could be made on the basis of cost effectiveness for both the returner and retainer programmes. The time has come to redesign and repackage the schemes across England, it argued.

Schemes should be centrally funded and priority should be given to GPs wishing to train and work in “underdoctored” areas, the taskforce said. It recommended NHS England should seek consensus on the threshold for assessing a doctor’s eligibility for reinclusion on a performer’s list and explore whether there could be flexibility in the managed return to practice.

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