The shortage of GPs has reached such a high level that many practices are being forced to abandon their search for doctors to fill vacancies and are instead recruiting other staff, such as pharmacists, the BMA says.
The annual GP vacancy survey run by the GP magazine
shows that GP vacancies have hit an all-time high of 12.2%. Last year’s survey found that 11.7% of posts were vacant.
More worryingly, this year 158 of the 850 GPs who answered the survey – almost one in five – said they had given up trying to recruit a GP in the past 12 months, because their attempts had been unsuccessful.
The survey, which has been running since 2011 when the vacancy rate was just 2.1%, also reveals that the average time taken to recruit a GP partner has lengthened by almost a month over the past year.
Responding to the findings, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, told Pulse: “The high number of positions vacant and one in five practices abandoning their search is another sign of the recruitment crisis, with many practices struggling to find GPs.
“This is adding to the pressure on the remaining staff. Some practices are looking to recruit therapists, pharmacists and other health professionals but of course they are not a replacement for a GP.
“There needs to be a real step-change in recruitment initiatives to ease the pressure on GPs.”
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, called on all professionals working in GP practices to include local community pharmacists in their care planning.
He said: “We know the pressure on GP practices at the moment is immense; those struggling to recruit GPs will be feeling this even more than most. Community pharmacy already does much to help, but with the right enablers it could do so much more, for instance becoming the first port of call for people with minor conditions and taking the lead role in supporting people with long-term health conditions to manage their conditions without needing to visit the GP.”
Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, described the degree to which vacancies had increased over the last six years as “staggering”.
“In the most severe cases, not being able to recruit has forced practices to close,” she said.