Sixteen million Britons could be left without a GP within a decade without ‘huge investment’, doctors argued today.
Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) warned physicians would ‘either quit the NHS, the profession or the country unless the new Health Secretary stops the rot’.
Writing in a letter to Therese Coffey, the group added the postcode lottery seen in dentistry ‘could soon be replicated across general practice’.
The group of frontline medics called for practice funds to be increased based on how many contacts GPs make, as opposed to the current patient-list sizes.
Under their 10-step plan, they also called for paid administrative time to cope with paperwork, as well as a pause on ‘activity towards extending access’. Family doctors have been told they must start offering weekday evening and weekend consultations from October.
DAUK claimed the current workload is ‘making us ill’ and warned the NHS is a ‘sinking ship’.
Sixteen million Britons could be left without a GP within a decade without ‘huge investment’, doctors warned today. DAUK GP lead Dr Lizzie Toberty claimed the exodus of family doctors would create a ‘public health catastrophe’
There were just 27,558 full-time equivalent, fully-qualified GPs working in England last month, down 1.6 per cent on the 18,000 recorded in June 2021. It was down 5.3 per cent on the more than 29,000 working in June 2017
Map shows: The proportion of GP appointments made in-person in July across England’s integrated care boards
NHS Digital figures show 65 per cent of consultations were made in-person across England in July, compared to more than 80 per cent before Covid
Meanwhile, the figures also showed fewer than half of appointments across the country were with a fully-qualified GP
Just over a third of consultations in Lincolnshire were with a doctor. The rest were seen by other staff, including nurses, physiotherapists and even acupuncturists. Map shows: The proportion of appointments seen by a fully-qualified GP in ICBs across England in July
Doctors’ Association UK 10 solutions to the GP staffing crisis
- Continuity of care: Focus on prioritising patients are treated by the same doctor rather than increasing hours and access to GPs across the board
- An overhaul of the way practices are paid: Finances need to reflect the number of contacts GPs deal with, rather than the current blanket ‘per patient, per year fee’
- Paid administrative time: ‘Hospital doctors have this as the norm’
- Extending sickness self-certification to 28 days: To free up appointments made simply to certify absence from work
- Empowering pharmacists: To make appropriate substitutes ‘would be helpful’ in reducing appointments for prescribed medications, for example with HRT
- Training and development for additional roles: Improve training of non-doctor, non-nurse staff to improve patient care
- Removing revalidation the final five years of a GP’s career: To incentivise those who wish to keep working
- Allow practices to use extra funding in the best way possible: Allow individual primary care networks to decide how they spend additional money
- New purpose-built premises: Current buildings are ‘cramped, old and are not energy-efficient’
- Investment in high quality IT systems: Current software systems are ‘unreliable’
Dr Coffey is expected to outline her ‘ABCD’ plan for the health service in detail later this week, as part of a plan to ensure the service is ‘delivering for patients’.
She has not yet, however, made clear how she will deal with doctor and dentist staffing levels.
Medical unions say the workforce issue is central to the GP crisis, and is one of the main factors behind why millions of patients struggle to see their doctor.
The number of full-time GPs working in Britain has been plummeting for the last five years, dropping to its to its lowest level on record in June — the most recent date data is available for.
There were around 27,500 fully-qualified, permanent family doctors working in the NHS in England that month, down from about 28,000 in June 2021 and 1,500 fewer than five years ago.
Almost half of family doctors are planning to quit by 2027, according to stark forecasts by the Royal College of GPs.
Swathes of doctors, who earn £110,000 per year on average, are also reducing their work hours, retiring early or moving abroad.
Many say ever-increasing hours, mountains of admin work and a rising number of patients are putting them under too much strain. Some have also blamed aggressive media coverage.
DAUK’s estimate of one in four patients being left without a GP in the next decade was based on numbers from the Health Foundation thinktank.
It projected 8,800 GPs will leave the NHS by 2030. The DAUK calculation is based on the average GP looking after around 2,000 patients.
Yet MailOnline analysis earlier this year revealed the proportion could be as staggeringly high as one doctor for every 14,000 patients in parts of the country.
The group’s GP lead Dr Lizzie Toberty said: ‘GPs will cut their hours, quit the NHS, or quit the country.
‘We fear patients will suffer the same “postcode lottery” for seeing their GP as many do now with getting an NHS dentist.’
She claimed the exodus of family doctors would create a ‘public health catastrophe’.
Dr Toberty said: ‘We are hurtling rapidly towards the end of the NHS as we know it, where those who can pay — and those who can’t suffer.
‘And just like in dentistry, there is evidence of a rapidly expanding private GP sector.
‘For those who cannot pay, my worry is they will die young of entirely preventable diseases. We are about to see health inequalities get a whole lot wider.’
In their letter, the group highlighted the suicide of Dr Gail Milligan, who died in July, as an example of the strain doctors are under.
They wrote: ‘This job is making us ill.’
The group claimed the increasing numbers of doctors leaving the field could be halted if Dr Coffey followed their ten-point plan.
This includes improving practice buildings to ensure they are better insulated and updating old IT systems.
They also called for sickness self-certification to be extended to 28 days to reduce the number of appointments made ‘simply to certify absence from work’.