The Royal College of General Practitioners | RCGP is calling on the next government to bring in emergency measures to boost GP number such as paying off student loans and cutting hospital training posts.
Analysis before the election results by the college suggested that on the current trends of employment it would take until 2034 for the 5,000 new GPs the Conservatives have pledged to recruit. The plans of Labour and UKIP for 8,000 extra GPs would have required until 2045 for recruitment levels to match their target.
The college called on whoever won the election to introduce emergency measures to recruit, retain and encourage former GPs back to work.
The RCGP commissioned an opinion poll in key marginal constituencies found that nine in 10 people cited protecting GP services as a high priority for the election.
The poll conducted by ComRes found 89% of voters in 40 marginal constituencies said GP services should be a very or fairly high priority.
The main parties had all vowed to increase GP numbers as part of their manifesto but have been criticised for failing to explain how they will do so.
Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Health Secretary, has previously said that medical graduates are already beginning to see general practices as the most exciting part of the NHS because of government plans to transform provision.
Plans for investment in retainer schemes and financial support for trainees had been included in a workforce action plan published January by NHS England, the RCGP, GPC and Health Education England.
GP numbers had increased by just 258 between 2013 and 2014, according to the RCGP. Honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers said that while the RCGP had been encouraged that the parties had recognised the urgent need for more GPs, the next government would need to introduce a package of measures immediately after the election or risk missing its targets.
Speaking before the election Mathers said: “Whoever is in power, ministers will urgently need to rebalance the number of training places towards general practice by reducing the historic excess of training posts available in some hospital-based specialties; provide financial and other incentives – such as grants that can be used to pay off student loans – to newly qualified GPs if they agree to train and practise in under-doctored or deprived areas; and encouraging existing family doctors to stay in practice, by cutting the red tape in the QOF and reviewing the bureaucracy of the CQC inspection regime.
‘Any emergency package must dovetail with the 10-point plan to boost the GP workforce that was launched in January by the RCGP, NHS England, Health Education England, and the BMA.
‘If the new government – of whichever colour – misses its GP workforce target, then millions of patients will continue to have to wait more than a week to see their GP every year, and increasing numbers of family doctors will feel it is more and more difficult to deliver excellent patient care.’