New league table reveals GP shortages across England, as patients set to wait week or more to see family doctor on 67m occasions

Publication date: 08 February 2015

A new ‘league table’ of projected GP shortages across England shows that some parts of the country will need substantial increases in the number of family doctors employed locally by 2020, to meet the growth of the population.

Figures produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) today show that certain areas of the country will need at least a 50% increase in the number of GPs working in the community over the next five years - due both to the growing population, and shortages of family doctors that already exist locally.
 
Overall, RCGP research shows that England will need 8,000 new full time equivalent GPs by 2020, with Bexley needing an uplift of 87% over the next five years, Redbridge needing an increase of 85% and Swale needing an enhancement of 74%. Altogether, 16 areas including parts of Kent, Yorkshire, Essex, Berkshire and the Midlands, will need at least a 50% increase in GPs numbers to cope with population changes and already emerging shortages of family doctors.
 
The huge increase in GP numbers required across most areas in the country – driven by the growing population – is revealed as the RCGP also publishes new research showing that on an estimated 67m occasions, in 2015, patients in England will have to wait for a week or more to see a GP or practice nurse.
 
The RCGP’s latest analysis of the GP Patient Survey – published every six months by NHS England – shows that the occasions when patients will have to wait a week or more are set to rocket by more than 4m during 2015, up from 62.4m in 2014 – making it the fourth year running where there has been a significant increase.
 
The RCGP says that the number of patients who are finding it difficult to make a GP appointment has increased due to a lack of sufficient resourcing for general practice and rapidly growing demand, brought about by the ageing population and more patients being treated for long-term and complex conditions.
 
General practice manages 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS. This equates to approximately 370 million patients per year, which works out at 150,000 more GP consultations per day than even five years ago.
 
The RCGP analysis of GP shortages is based on assessment of population growth and current GP numbers in each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in England. The analysis looks at population growth alone, but there are numerous other factors that need to be taken into account when estimating the number of GPs an area needs, such as age of population,  recruitment rates, and deprivation.
 
According to the RCGP, the following areas will need the greatest increase in GPs in terms of percentage uplifts:

  • Bexley will need an uplift of 87% (83 additional full time equivalent GPs)
  • Redbridge will need an uplift of 85% (106 additional FTE GPs)
  • Swale will need an uplift of 74% (36 additional FTE GPs)
  • Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley will need an uplift of 67% (76 additional FTE GPs)
  • North Kirklees will need an uplift of 60% (52 additional FTE GPs)
  • Slough will need an uplift of 59% (41 additional FTE GPs)
  • Warrington will need an uplift of 57% (55 additional FTE GPs)
  • Corby will need an uplift of 57% (18 additional FTE GPs)
  • Luton will need an uplift of 56% (58 additional FTE GPs)
  • Barking and Dagenham will need an uplift of 56% (56 additional FTE GPs)

Meanwhile, the following ten areas will need the greatest increase in GPs in terms of actual numbers:

  • Nene will need 165 additional FTE GPs (an uplift of 55%)
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will need 132 additional full time equivalent GPs (an uplift of 26%)
  • East and North Hertfordshire will need 126 additional FTE GPs (an uplift of 44%)
  • Birmingham Crosscity will need 122 additional full time equivalent GPs (an uplift of 29%)
  • West Kent will need 114 additional FTE GPs (an uplift of 48%)
  • West Hampshire will need 109 additional FTD GPs (an uplift of 37%)
  • Herts Valleys will need 108 additional FTE GPs (an uplift of 33%)
  • Redbridge will need 106 additional FTE GPs (an uplift of 85%)
  • Dorset will need 105 additional full time equivalent GPs (an uplift of 23%)
  • Gloucestershire will need 105 additional full time equivalent GPs (an uplift of 31%)

Its launch comes ahead of today’s debate in Parliament on the pressures facing general practice during which MPs will vote on a motion calling for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and any future Health Secretaries to secure its financial future.
 
The RCGP says that the number of patients who are finding it difficult to make a GP appointment will continue to increase due to the on-going funding crisis and rapidly growing demand, brought about by the ageing population and more patients being treated for long-term and complex conditions.
 
General practice now manages 90% of all patient contacts in the NHS. This equates to more than 370m patients per year, which works out at 150,000 more consultations per day than even five years ago.
 
Yet, as patient numbers have risen, the share of the NHS budget for general practice has fallen year on year and is now at its lowest ever at 8.3% in the UK.
 
There is now a severe shortage of GPs, with large numbers of family doctors set to retire and insufficient numbers of medical students going into general practice. The RCGP recently launched its first-ever recruitment video to encourage medical students and foundation doctors to consider general practice as a career.
 
The RCGP says significant investment is needed if GPs are to cut waiting times and provide the high quality care that patients need in the community.
 
The College and the National Association of Patient Participation (N.A.P.P.) are running a campaign Put patients first: Back general practice, calling for an increase to 11% of the NHS budget by 2017 and 8,000 more GPs in England by 2020.
 
Last autumn over 300,000 people signed the College’s petition backing this call.
 
Today’s debate has been sponsored by four MPs across four different political parties; Derek Twigg (Labour, Halton), Paul Burstow (Lib Dem, Sutton and Cheam), Charlotte Leslie (Conservative, Bristol North West), and Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion).
 
RCGP Chair, Dr Maureen Baker said: “The fact that there is cross-party support for a debate on our campaign for more investment for general practice is a big step forward.
 
“Politicians of every political persuasion are increasingly understanding that the key to ensuring that the NHS is sustainable for the future is to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of GPs in each community.
 
“We have only once chance to deliver 8,000 GPs over the course of the next Parliament. The 10-point workforce plan recently launched by NHS England and Health Education England gives us a real opportunity to build up the GP workforce that the nation needs and it is vital that politicians and our partner organisations work with us to make this happen.
 
“Only through properly resourcing and supporting general practice can we ensure that patients receive the care that they want and need in the community.
 
“Our patients deserve access to excellent GP care and services wherever in the country they live. Today’s figures show how critical it is to act now if we are to have enough GPs to meet all our patients’ needs over the next five years.
 
“It is vital to ensure that patients can see a GP when they need one. We need to recruit and retain far more family doctors and practice nurses so that we can go on providing high-quality care and services in local communities. We also need to make it easier for trained GPs to return to general practice after a career break.
 
“We have already heard pledges of more GPs from the main political parties – and this really brings home why this is so necessary and why these promises need to convert into tangible results, including more GPs and practice staff, sooner rather than later.
 
“The fact that this debate in parliament is happening is further evidence that through our Put patients first: Back general practice campaign we are getting our message across – and that politicians and decision makers are recognising the terrible situation that GPs have been dealing with for too long.
 
“The College is working hard to try and show what an exciting and diverse career general practice can be but first we need to demonstrate that the tide of increasing demand and depleting resources is turning, and that the future for our profession really is bright.
 
“General practice is the cornerstone of the health service – it keeps the NHS sustainable, and our patients safe. We need to make sure that it is in a position to keep doing so for years to come – and this will only be possible with more GPs, more resources, and the tools we need to do our jobs properly, wherever in the country we are.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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