Underfunding leaves traditional GPS in parlous state
THE traditional family doctor risks extinction due to the number of burntout GPS fleeing the profession, Jeremy Hunt has warned.
The Health Secretary said decades of underfunding meant that the “magic” of seeing a doctor who remembered their patients’ names was under threat.
Reiterating a promise to provide an extra 5,000 practitioners by 2021, he also challenged the profession to improve efficiency and waste less time treating people not ill enough for a GP.
Addressing the Royal College of General Practitioners’ annual conference, Mr Hunt said: “For me, the best thing about the NHS is having a doctor who knows you and your family.” But he added: “The truth is that because we have under-invested in general practice over decades we have made it much, much harder for you to deliver the continuity of care that I think is part of the magic of general practice.”
More GPS are leaving the profession than at any time since 1998, with 7,000 current practitioners indicating that they are planning to quit, said Mr Hunt. His warning followed the announcement of a package of £20,000 “golden hellos” to entice GPS to work in parts of the country that are struggling most.
The Government has pledged to boost the number of family doctors in England from around 34,500 to 39,500 within the next three years, but medical leaders have questioned the feasibility of this goal. Approximately one in five patients wait at least a week to see a GP, a 56 per cent rise in the past five years, while one in eight GP posts are empty.
“Too many GPS are knackered and at the end of their tether,” said Mr Hunt.
GP partners earn more than £100,000, on average, but one in five are over the age of 55, with growing numbers retiring early.