GP vacancy rates rise despite recruitment pledges

A Pulse survey has revealed that GP vacancy rates are at the highest level ever recorded, with more than 15 per cent of GP positions currently empty.

The annual vacancy survey of 658 GPs showed that recruitment issues were concentrated on certain practices, with two-thirds of the vacancies reported at practices where there were more than one position unfilled. The total 15.3 per cent vacancy rate was an increase on 12.2 per cent last year, and 11.7 per cent in 2016.

GPs, who claim that the shortages are 'placing an intolerable pressure' on the workforce, report that the inability to recruit, alongside funding shortages, has also forced many practices to cut GP positions, relying on non-GP staff and forcing practices to close patient lists.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC chair of the British Medical Association, said: “The fact that so many surgeries are unable to recruit GPs provides yet more evidence of the scale of the crisis impacting general practice. The government must prioritise general practice and urgently invest in it to address this growing crisis which is threatening to undermine the foundation on which the wider NHS is built. We cannot allow a situation where patient safety is being compromised by a lack of political action.

“This is placing an intolerable pressure on local GP services, especially as they increasingly need to deliver intensive, specialist care in the community to the growing number of older patients with complex health conditions.”

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, added: “We are acutely aware that GPs and their teams are struggling to recruit across the UK, and the problem is still getting worse. When a practice can’t recruit, they often have no choice but to rely on locum staff, at a greater cost. We know that in some areas recruiting locums is becoming difficult, and we are short of other allied healthcare professionals in the community too – especially experienced practice nursing staff. The problem is that in many areas the GPs simply aren’t there to employ.”

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