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NHS pumps £100m into GP recruitment as numbers plummet

Published on 01/09/17 at 09:16am

The NHS has been forced to offer £100 million to recruitment agencies in order to plug growing gaps in the number of GPs working in the service. The move comes as part of the UK government’s pledge, during the 2015 election, to increase the number of GPs by 5,000.

At the time, it was thought the majority of these new GPs would come from within the UK, through recruitment and training. However, it is now realised that this is not possible and the NHS has set a target of 2,000 to 3,000 individuals to be recruited from outside of the UK.

This comes after the number of training places to become a GP was increased to boost the number educated within the UK, but which failed to fill 7% of the spaces.

The target is to bring people into the service from Europe and recruitment agencies will be given £20,000 per successful relocation of a GP to England.

The dire need for further GPs was revealed after NHS Digital released data showing that 5,159 GPs left the NHS in between the period of April 2016 and March 2017. This saw the number of GPs in England fall, overall, by 1.5% from 2014 to 2016.

The drop in numbers is particularly troublesome for the government after it had promised a ‘seven-day service’ by 2020. This aim seems unrealistic if numbers of GPs continue to drop whilst the population, particularly the ageing population, rises.

Dr Steve Mowle, Honorary Treasurer for the Royal College of GPs, said of the move: “General practice is currently facing a resource and workforce crisis. Our workload has risen 16% over the last seven years, but investment has declined, and GP numbers have not risen in step. NHS England’s GP Forward View pledges 5,000 more, desperately-needed full-time equivalent GPs by 2020. NHS England’s plan to recruit an additional 2000-3000 doctors from overseas to the GP workforce is a bold step, which if successful will make a real difference in reaching this target.”

Brexit has undoubtedly complicated recruitment, with the UK a less desirable place to move to during the uncertainty of how the process will pan out. There are some predictions that, by 2020, there will be a shortage 12,100 GPs in England.

Ben Hargreaves

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