The government must take urgent steps to increase the number of GP trainees to meet its promises to improve patient access, senior GPs have said.
The number of trainees should increase annually from 3,500 to 5,000, the Royal College of GP said yesterday. The college made the plea in advance of the government’s “spending review,” which is due to take place today.
It points out that no increased budgets have been allocated to medical training – in spite of increases in the NHS budget. Its proposals match the increase in medical school places, which currently stands at 1,500. The college also calls for increased funding for GP retainer schemes, suggesting an extra £72 million on top of current spending of £13 million.
Writing to chief secretary to the treasury Rishi Sunak, college chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard says the budget, held by Health Education England, should increase by at least 3.6% or £160 million a year. In the last year the NHS has begun to hit targets for recruiting doctors into general practice. But these successes have been counter-balanced by a significant reduction in hours worked by qualified GPs.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “If the new Government is to deliver on its promise to increase access to general practice for millions of patients across the country, it must use the forthcoming Spending Review, as well as future reviews, to provide the funding boost that those training and working in general practice and the wider NHS need to deliver aspirations of the NHS Long Term Plan and the forthcoming NHS People Plan.
“General practice keeps the NHS afloat by making the vast majority of patient contacts for a modest share of the overall funding – this alleviates pressures in hospitals and keeps our health service sustainable.
“GPs and our teams are facing intense resource and workforce pressures – and it is causing a growing crisis in our patients’ access to general practice services, which the Prime Minister pledged to address when he took up office.”
She added: “We desperately need thousands more GPs but despite great and successful efforts to boost recruitment, more family doctors are leaving the profession that entering it. We need to think big, and based on current workforce trends, the College estimates that we need to start training at least 5,000 GPs every year to meet the Government’s overall target to expand the GP workforce by 5,000 full time GPs, over the next few years.”