Restricting where GPs can and can’t work won’t solve GP shortage, says College

The College features in a front-page lead story in today’s Times on plans to ‘restrict’ where GPs can and can’t work. We make the point that the chronic shortage of GPs is affecting the entire UK.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs have been under significant workforce pressures for the last decade, and this is affecting all areas of the UK. However, we know that areas of high deprivation tend to have some of the most pronounced GP shortages. The paradox is that people living in more deprived areas also tend to have a greater number of long-term health conditions and more complex health needs, and therefore often require greater access to GP care and services.

“It is essential that the health inequalities experienced by patients living in under-doctored areas are urgently addressed. However the shortage of GPs and practice teams is affecting patients living in all areas of the UK. Instead of restricting where GPs can and can’t work, it would be more beneficial to have clear plans, incentives and resources to attract more GPs to under-doctored areas – and to retain experienced GPs who are already working in them.

“The RCGP has also called on government to set up an independent workforce planning body, which could help ensure we are training the staff we need to address health inequalities. As well as more GPs and other members of the practice team, the College has long called for GPs to have more time with patients, to enable us to properly deliver the kind of relationship-based care our patients with complex health problems need.

“Access to GP care should not be dependent on where a patient lives. We already had a shortage of GPs before the Covid-19 pandemic began – the need to recruit more GPs and retain the existing workforce has not gone away. We must see urgent progress on the Government’s manifesto pledge of additional 6000 GPs by 2024.

Further information

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 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.