Long-term investment and more GPs are the real solution to GP retention, says College

The College has issued the following response to proposals by the Nuffield Trust to ‘write off’ student loans to encourage GPs and other healthcare professionals to remain working in the NHS. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “This report raises creative proposals for addressing our troubling workforce crisis in general practice.

“While it is encouraging that we currently have more medical students doing specialist GP training than ever before, we need to ensure that they stay in the profession and caring for patients long after they have qualified.

“You can’t run the bath without putting the plug in first and the substantial loss of experienced GPs we are seeing simply can’t be resolved by hiring initiatives alone, therefore we are very interested to hear about innovative means of encouraging GPs and medical professionals to stay with the NHS.

“General practice is the cornerstone of the NHS, but it is withering on the vine after more than a decade of under-investment and poor workforce planning which has led to a serious workload and workforce crisis. GPs are delivering tens of millions of appointments per month, even more than before the pandemic, but now with 952 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than 2019. Each GP in England is now responsible, on average, for over 2,300 patients – an increase of over 160 patients from the end of 2019 – and this is not sustainable.

“Initiatives such as writing off student loans might be appealing for many. The ‘New to Practice’ Fellowship, if it was much more available and funded properly, would also encourage more students keen on general practice to become GPs and to stay working as GPs.

“However, we need much greater long-term investment and support for our family doctor service, to protect our patients and prevent our hardworking doctors from burning out and leaving the profession long before their time.

“The NHS long-term workforce plan should, over the course of the next ten years, result in larger numbers of GPs, but we need immediate action on recruitment that addresses our current shortfall, alongside a fully funded national retention scheme and measures to cut the amount of time that GPs have to spend on bureaucracy when they want to be caring for their patients.”

Further information

RCGP press office: 0203 188 7659

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.