Media comment: politically motivated, unilaterally developed workforce plan does little to address GP retention crisis

  • Media comment

Dr Drage calls for a greater focus on improving the working environment and for continuity of care not to be sacrificed for immediacy of access.

“A considered, consulted, costed, plan to tackle the escalating NHS workforce crisis would be welcomed by London’s hard-pressed general practice teams and their patients. Sadly, today’s politically motivated, unilaterally developed, largely unfunded announcement will do little to relieve the pressure on GPs or the frustration of patients.

“How it looks to GPs in London is neither the plan, nor the policymakers, understand the role that GPs play at their core in terms of continuity and management of multiple conditions and complexity. Because they do not see the value of this to the NHS and patients they continue to configure the service as if it’s a roll-on roll-off conveyor belt of single, unconnected conditions to batch and dispatch as cheaply as possible. This fundamental misunderstanding worsens all the current problems relating to access and attrition, with the Workforce Plan’s lack of funding for core general practice doing nothing to reverse the decline.

“Demand for GP appointments is rising month-on-month and despite greater appointment numbers than ever before, without new funding practices cannot recruit the workforce to meet the rising patient need. But we cannot just recruit our way out of the current workforce crisis, we have to also focus on retention. Our most experienced staff are our most valuable staff and they are struggling to maintain safe care against a headwind of increased patient need and long-standing underfunding, 12-plus hour working days, increasing supervisory demands and scape-goating from the Government for waiting lists elsewhere in the system.

“Training more GPs and other supporting roles does not recognise that retention is the biggest issued right now. Reducing GP training time is a false economy, as newly qualified GPs will need more support from experience colleagues, drawing them away from patient care. And the expectation that GPs have the time to supervise growing numbers of pharmacists, physiotherapists and other roles which have been worked into the general practice team over recent years is unrealistic.”

Dr Michelle Drage, CEO, Londonwide Londonwide Local Medical Committees.

Note: in April we published our report Retention in London general practice, outlining the challenges that need to be met if GP practices are to stop losing their workforce at the current rate.