GP shortage warning: ‘More leaving the profession than joining’

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More GPs are leaving the profession than entering it, leading medics have warned.

The Royal College of GPs said staff numbers “won’t be enough” to meet the current and future needs of the population.

The comments come as Health Education England (HEE) published new figures on the number of doctors entering specialist training to become GPs.

In 2022, 4,032 trainee GPs were accepted on to placements, HEE said.

HEE said it had met the Government’s target for GP specialty trainee recruitment for the fifth year running.

“There is no denying that it is a difficult time for the profession, with GPs under growing pressure as demand increases – but it is heartening that thousands of doctors are continuing to see general practice as a rewarding and valuable career.”

But the RCGP said it has estimated that up to 19,000 GPs could leave the profession in the next five years due to the intensity of workload pressures.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the College, said: “It’s really encouraging that so many doctors are accepting training places to become GPs in the future – but we have now reached a situation where more experienced GPs are leaving the profession than are entering it, and unfortunately, this won’t be enough to meet the current or future healthcare needs of a growing and ageing population with increasingly complex health needs.

“A recent College survey suggested up to 19,000 GPs could leave the profession in the next five years due to the intensity of workload pressures, therefore we also need to see much more effort put into retaining the current GP workforce for longer.”

Dr David Smith, chair of the GP trainees committee at the British Medical Association, said: “Since 2015 we have lost the equivalent of more than 1,800 full-time fully-qualified GPs in England, and the majority of these new recruits will take at least another three years to qualify.

“There is no point having record numbers coming in the front door if huge numbers are still leaving through the back.”

Cabinet meeting
Health Secretary Steve Barclay (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“This pipeline of talent will strengthen our growing primary care workforce helping patients get appointments and access the right service at the right time.

“I am hugely appreciative to GPs and their teams for all the hard work they do every day in caring for us and our loved ones.”

The announcement comes after it was reported that Rishi Sunak’s appointment letter to Mr Barclay dropped the target to recruit 6,000 more GPs in England by the end of 2024 – a Conservative manifesto pledge.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this year that the Government would be unlikely to meet the commitment due to the number of GPs retiring early.

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