RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker has outlined a five-point plan in order to retain the existing GP workforce, in a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The government wants to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 by the year 2020 solely through recruitment initiatives alone, and Dr Baker has warned the government that this target is not achievable through only recruitment initiatives. Dr Baker has also urged the government to take steps to keep the existing GP workforce working longer.
467 GP practices in England and 133 GP practices across the UK could potentially cease operations by 2020 because of the age of their GPs, with 75% being over 55, the college warned earlier this month.
The five initiatives
There are five initiatives that Dr Baker outlined in her letter to Jeremy Hunt that the RCGP want the government to focus on, these are:
- Opportunities to keep older GPs engaged in the workforce in whatever way suits their needs the most, through a flexible and comprehensive careers planning scheme
- The cost of indemnity is often a barrier to older GPs ability to work flexibly, therefore a bursary to support continuing professional development and help the older GPs meet the costs of indemnity would be welcome
- Pensions can be a disincentive to continue to work for older GPs, so a government review into pension arrangements is necessary
- A major contributing factor in a GPs decision to retire is the roll-out in medical assistants as it is an administrative burden, so priority for older GPs in this roll-out is needed
- A mentoring and job sharing scheme where older GPs would be matched with GPs who are returning from maternity leave. This would allow older GPs to have a staged retirement date as well as other GPs having a staged return date. It will also allow for the transfer of knowledge between older GPs and younger GPs
Dr Baker said: “Older GPs have so much to give to their patients, their colleagues and the wider NHS, yet we are at risk of “brain drain” on a massive scale. Even with the significant levels of investment promised in NHS England’s GP Forward View, this cannot be replaced overnight, if ever.”
“Failing to find ways to keep GPs approaching retirement in the profession when waits for GP appointments are rising risked ‘a tragic waste of talent and expert knowledge”, Dr Baker warned.
“If we fail to address this, the consequences for the health service could be dire – and it is patients who will ultimately bear the brunt by not being able to see their GP when they need to. General practice is caught in a pincer movement of GPs leaving the profession but not enough medical students choosing to go into general practice.”
“We have launched our Think GP campaign to attract more people into the profession – but we need similar schemes to persuade practicing GPs to stay, and that is what we are calling on the health secretary to establish and champion.”