Trainee survey must be a ‘wake-up call’ to politicians, says College

College Chair Kamila Hawthorne has responded to the latest King’s Fund annual GP trainee survey by issuing an impassioned plea for greater support for our future - and current GPs.

She said:

“Our fantastic trainees are our future. They are a unique and valuable workforce that our profession and our patients will be relying on to keep general practice afloat in the years to come. We are indebted to them for choosing general practice and we owe it to them to launch them into stimulating and long careers where they can flourish and get job satisfaction. We need to nurture and support them.

“Sadly, these survey results show that even from the early stages of their training, too many GP trainees are now being exposed to the same huge pressures that their experienced colleagues are having to contend with, on a daily basis. Others can see for themselves what the GPs in their practices are having to cope with.

“We sincerely hope that the present and any future Government will see these alarming figures from the Kings Fund survey as a wake-up call and take urgent action to stop the decline in general practice before it’s too late. It triangulates what we have been saying to Ministers for years now.

“Last month, GP teams delivered 5m extra appointments for patients than in August 2019 – equating to 150,000 extra appointments per day – all with 883 fewer GPs than in 2019. Each GP in England is now responsible, on average, for 2,300 patients – an increase of over 150 patients from the end of 2019. This is not sustainable. Therefore, it is unsurprising, though still shocking and unacceptable, that trainee GPs are having to work beyond their contracted hours and that this is creating concerns about their future careers.

“For well over a decade now, general practice has been allowed to decline and not enough attention has been paid to supporting GPs and their teams. Under-investment and poor workforce planning have created a situation where demand for our services is escalating at the same time as our workforce numbers are falling.

“While recruitment to GP training is looking promising, we cannot recruit our way out of a retention crisis, and we are losing more GPs from frontline patient care than are entering the profession. Disappointingly, the Long-Term Workforce Plan is particularly unambitious on retention and will only plans to retain 700 extra GPs at the most by 2036/37. Unless something is done swiftly to boost retention schemes and reduce workload pressures, new GPs entering the profession could be entering a wasteland in the future.

“The College’s own survey shows that more than a third of GPs are planning to quit in the next five years - and politicians and policymakers cannot sit back and allow this to happen. Our members tell us they struggle to access retention schemes, and many struggle to find information about them. The Government needs to establish a ‘one-stop shop’ retention programme with enough resources behind it so that every GP who needs help to stay in the profession can find the tailored support they need.

“The existing New to Practice Fellowship scheme should be available to all newly qualified GPs, but so far not even a quarter (24%) have accessed it. This scheme can offer a supportive, practice-based environment in which a new GP can continue to develop and thrive, after they complete their training. The solutions are there, but they need to be properly resourced, publicised and easy to access.

“Being a GP can be the best job in medicine, you play a key role in your community and can really make a difference to the lives of your patients, providing the care that they need and deserve. But we need the resources and the funding to make this happen and they’re just not there at present.

“Despite this, I want to reassure our trainees - at whatever stage they are in their training - that things will get better and that your College will fight your corner until it does.”

Further information

RCGP Press office: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editors

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.