Urgent action needed to reverse ‘hard slog’ of general practice, says College Chair

Responding to the General Medical Council's report, The state of medical education and practice in the UK 2023, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: "Today's findings from the GMC are a stark reminder of the workforce crisis facing general practice and the wider NHS, but sadly, they come as no surprise. For years, the College has warned that without urgent action on recruitment and retention, the number of GPs retiring earlier than planned or leaving the profession altogether would continue to rise – often due to their own burnout, rock-bottom morale, and a great sense of moral distress at the number of patients struggling to access care.

"Vicious cycle’ is an increasingly accurate description of day-to-day general practice as a dwindling number of GPs face an almost impossible workload, that continuously grows in both volume and complexity. We are delivering millions more appointments compared to before the pandemic, with almost half on the same day of booking. But we are doing so with 930 fewer fully qualified full-time-equivalent GPs compared to 2019. It is little wonder that our own College survey suggests a further 22,000 GPs could leave in the next five years.

“The bottom line is, we need thousands more GPs, but the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

“However, it is not too late to turn this dire situation around. The long-awaited NHS workforce plan is the opportunity to make sure general practice is fit for the future. We need to see a bold new plan from the Government that goes beyond the target of 6,000 more GPs it pledged in its election manifesto, including revitalised recruitment and retention schemes.

“Our patients deserve good quality, safe care and GPs need to be able to deliver this without compromising their own health and wellbeing. We need urgent action to reverse the hard slog of general practice and restore it to the fulfilling and stimulating career that GPs trained for.”

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 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.