More than one in 10 GP roles in England are vacant, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has revealed, making government plans for 7-day general practice ‘unrealistic’.
A survey of 540 GP practices by the college found that 10.2% of full-time equivalent positions were vacant. RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker called on ministers to drop their ‘obsession’ with 7-day services. Ministers have promised 7-day and evening GP access for every patient in England. The RCGP has calculated that around 3,300 extra GPs are needed immediately and that an extra 8,000 are required by 2020.
Dr Baker said:
‘We are in dire straits if we do not act to address the GP recruitment crisis immediately and ensure that there are enough GPs in the system so that practices do not have to run with a substantial number of vacant positions. It is simply unrealistic to be thinking about 7-day working when our existing 5-day service and out-of-hours GP services are under so much pressure.
‘Many GP services are already offering extended hours. However, opening for extended periods is pie-in-the-sky for many family doctors who are already working exceptionally long hours. The government needs to move away from its obsession with “providing a seven-day NHS”. Routine 7-day working may improve patient safety in hospitals but in general practice it could have the opposite effect.’
The Royal Colleges are not renowned for their tendency to exaggerate, panic or mislead. Once again, the RCGP – which stood alone in crying out the dangers of the Lansley Act when other Colleges shamefully did nothing – has debunked the myth of this particular set of Emperor’s new clothes. The naked truth is that the NHS is falling apart, and the’7-day working’ is yet another lever to break it up for private interests.