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A recent feature in GP magazine Pulse asked, ‘What’s the next big recruitment plan?’ There have been numerous promises and plans by every Health Secretary since the magazine warned as far back as 2014 of a dire shortage of GPs. In 2015 an extra 5,000 GPs were promised by 2020, followed by a 2019 promise of another 6,000 by 2024. None of these promises were kept.
I think we’ve reached the point where we have to stop blaming the pandemic and ask where are the new GPs? At MCG Healthcare we’re at the coalface of primary care recruitment and we know how difficult it is to fill vacancies. The Government has been promising new initiatives and Long-Term Plans for years – undoubtedly whoever is the new Health Secretary will have a few more Plans but what we desperately need is action, not more talking and planning.
With the failure to recruit more GPs or attract GPs out of retirement because of penalising pension tax rules, the focus shifted to Primary Care Networks (PCNs) who were given funds to recruit pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics among other roles, via the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS), with some success.
But this hasn’t helped to mitigate the shortfall in GP numbers. When you start digging into these figures, it becomes clear that many of these staff cannot be proxies for GPs. If you are ill you want to get medical advice from a doctor
Our solution – we must change the pension rules so that older, more experienced GPs would be willing to work at least part time and, more importantly, we have to hire more fully qualified and compliant GPs from abroad by easing stringent visa rules. Not from poorer countries which desperately need medical care for patients who can’t afford any, but from wealthier nations. Make it an attractive proposition- despite its numerous faults the NHS is still regarded as one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. Let’s keep it that way and give primary care patients the support that they need. This would also ease the burden on hospital A&E departments