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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 14:35 GMT
GP recruitment woes deepen
GP examines patient
General practice is experiencing recruitment problems
The recruitment problem facing general practice appears to be intensifying, lastest statistics suggest.

Figures from a Department of Health survey of 1,000 GP vacancies in England and Wales show that 322 were not filled by the end of the period. This is 176 more than in the previous survey the year before.

We desperately need a new GP contract

Dr John Chisholm
The number of GP posts standing vacant for at least a year more than doubled from 50 in the previous year to 102.

Some 83% of vacancies filled during the survey period were filled in six months or less. However, 17% took more than six months to fill.

At the same time the average number of applicants for each post dropped from 8.5 in 2000 to 4.4 last year.

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the British Medical Assocation's GP Committee, said: "GPs are finding it harder to fill posts when a doctor leaves - the figures show that nearly six out of 10 GPs believe it is now more difficult to find replacement doctors."

Urban practices

Practices in urban deprived areas have the lowest number of applicants per post.

There are now more GPs working in the NHS than ever before

John Hutton
And Dr Chisholm warned that the situation in these areas was likely to get even worse.

He said: "Large numbers of South Asian trained GPs who came here in the 1960s and 70s and have practised in these areas for many years now reach retirement age.

"In some areas this will represent a loss of one in four general practitioners."

The 2002 figures also show a fall in the number of vacant posts being filled by new GPs who have just completed their training.

In 2000 the figure was 142 new GPs, but in 2002 it was only 115.

The number of GPs who have left general practice because they have taken another sort of NHS job has gone up from 14 in 2001 to 40 in 2002.


Dr Chisholm said: "We know that all over the country family doctors are facing enormous workloads and are in critically short supply.

"In last year's National Survey of GP Opinion, 28% of GPs said that they were seriously contemplating changing career and leaving general practice.

"We desperately need a new GP contract to improve matters for the GPs we still have and attract new ones into the profession."

Health Minister John Hutton said there were now more GPs working in the NHS than ever before.

He said: "We are fully committed to increasing the number of GPs still further and to working with partners to improve primary care premises.

"I recognise that in some areas capacity is an issue and that is why the government has developed a range of initiatives to get more GPs where they are needed most.

"Schemes like the Golden Hello payments for new GPs and GPs returning to the NHS, flexible careers, childcare support and additional payments to GPs delaying their retirement will all impact on recruitment numbers."

Shadow health spokesman Simon Burns accused the government of "hollow spin".

He said: "Imposing their own politicised targets on GPs, whilst removing their professional freedom is destroying staff morale and driving GPs away from the NHS."

Negotiations for a new contract are on course for the BMA to present a priced and detailed contract to GPs in the New Year.

See also:

03 Oct 02 | Health
03 Jul 01 | BMA Conference
19 Dec 00 | Health
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