When the Times reports (Kat Lay) that there is such a vast shortage of GPs that we are going to repeat the recruitment drive of the 1950s, then you know there has been a dereliction of manpower planning. The duty of government is to protect it’s citizens. It has failed. Short termism, and not listening to the profession has led to this demise. Rationing of medical school places, avoiding more graduate entry, and preferential selection of female candidates at age 18 when they perform better than men, are to blame. Somebody needs to recognise that it takes 10 years to train a GP, and longer if they have children. Part-time GPs are unable to deliver as much continuity of care. The shape of the job is partly to blame as well. It’s too late. It’s going to get worse, especially for those living in deprived areas. And the overseas doctors recruited will block places for our own in 10 years time! Perhaps they could all be over 60 and on short term visas? And how about an apology to those aspiring med students who were rejected?
The NHS is set to recruit 2,000 foreign GPs — quadruple the previous target — in a drive to combat a shortage of family doctors.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said it would target other EU countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Last year health service bosses set a target of recruiting 500 overseas GPs at an expected cost of £30 million. The new target comes after figures showed that the number of GPs was in decline, despite a government pledge of 5,000 more by 2020.
In an interview with the Health Service Journal, Mr Stevens said: “Although there are some good signs of progress on increases in the GP training scheme, nevertheless there are real pressures around retirements.
“And so the conclusion we’ve come to is that in order to increase the likelihood of being able to have 5,000 more doctors in general practice, we are going to need a significantly expanded industrial-scale international recruitment programme. We intend to launch that in the autumn.”
He added: “Rather than the current 500 or so GPs that are being targeted for international recruitment . . . it probably needs to be four times more than that, from international sources — [from the] rest of the EU and possibly New Zealand and Australia.”
The total number of full time-equivalent GPs dropped from 34,914 in March 2016 to 34,372 in March this year, according to figures from NHS Digital.
Doctors’ representatives raised concerns about the long-term viability of overseas recruitment, given uncertainty over the status of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit.
The British Medical Association called the measure “a sticking plaster”.
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chairman of the BMA GP committee, said: “Overseas doctors have for decades provided a valuable contribution to the NHS, especially in general practice where they have a strong track record of providing first-class patient care.
“However, this announcement is yet another clear admission of failure from the government, which is effectively conceding it cannot meet its own target of recruiting 5,000 extra GPs without an emergency draft of doctors from abroad.”
He called for a long-term solution to address workload pressures on GPs, which he said were putting students off choosing general practice as a career.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Workload in general practice is escalating — it has risen 16 per cent over the last seven years — yet investment in our service has declined and we are desperately short of GPs and nurses.
“It is imperative that we do everything possible to address this, including recruiting more GPs, retaining existing ones, and making it easier for trained GPs to return to practice after a career break.”
She welcomed the extension of overseas recruitment, and called for “the position of EU GPs already working in UK general practice to be safeguarded beyond doubt as part of Brexit negotiations”.
Also, there is the unintended consequence of limiting pension amounts which many full-time (mostly male) doctors are endanger of breaching. This is resulting in them (and many higher paid public service workers, e.g. head teachers) taking early retirement.
Additionally, no real account has been taken of the large number of female GPs who (like my daughter) chose to jobshare so they can accommodate family life. It will not be long before GPs (like primary school teaching), will be an overwhelmingly female profession. There is a lot to be celebrated in rise in the number of female doctors over the last 25 – 30 years, but the nation needs to account for the different life work patterns when planning the workforce.