GP Recruitment Problems – What Effect Are They Having?

The number of GP vacancies has hit record levels. Despite the government pledging 5,000 more doctors, there is still a shortage. This is having an impact on waiting times, causing rushed appointments which in turn is leading to more problems for patients.

How many posts are unfilled?

According to the figures, there are currently 15.3% of GP posts left unfilled, a significant increase in recent years. This equates to around 6,000 GP posts, even though the former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had promised an additional 5,000 full-time GPs by 2020.

What effect do GP recruitment problems have on patients?

Many patients are already feeling the effects of too few GPs. Some report that it is more difficult to get an appointment, while others are only able to get appointments for emergency conditions – which could have a number of implications for people’s health.

Meanwhile, doctors are trying to cope with the demand, with some seeing three times more patients than is considered safe in a day. By having shorter, more rushed appointments, patients are at risk of improper care or misdiagnosis.

The consequence of GPs increasing their workload is of course the risk of burnout. Many doctors are facing pressures that come with the role, alongside busy, over-extended shifts that mean there’s little rest between shifts, leading to exhaustion and potentially dangerous treatment.

What are the government doing to tackle the problem?

The government has appointed a new health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, who faces a number of issues when it comes to GP recruitment. While the former secretary admitted that he ‘struggled’ to fill GP places, it will be up to the new secretary to tackle the issue. Despite a drive to bring in doctors from overseas, nearly 15% of those that come here aren’t ready to work in the UK – another problem that needs to be addressed. Other measures to tackle the problem include bringing in more staff to practices, including nurses and physiotherapists.

Combatting GP burnout

GP recruitment problems are one of the reasons behind the shortage of doctors, while others include the fact that people are giving up their professions because of stress and added pressures.

If you’re a GP feeling stressed or burnt out, then there are things that you can do to help ease some of the pressure. A change to working patterns can help, with out of hours working being a good way to go for GPs who want to achieve a better life balance, as well as deal with a less-stressful working environment. Out of hours covers evenings and weekends, and is a different role to that of a standard GP, with fewer regular patients and cases to deal with and more of a focus on immediate patient care.

The current GP recruitment problems are a cause for concern, but if you’re a GP looking for a change, then out of hours could benefit you. Take a look at the latest positions in East Berkshire and consider a move to out of hours.