General practitioner England

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A third of GP partners unable to fill staff vacancies for 12 months, warns new BMA survey

Almost a third of GP partners who run GP practices in England have been unable to fill GP staff vacancies for a year according to a new survey of 3,567 GP partners1.  

The report follows the release of figures last week by the BMA which showed that patient safety was being put at risk by unmanageable levels of workload in general practice.

Key findings from the poll include:

  • Almost a third of GP partners (31 per cent) have been unable to fill vacancies in the last 12 months.  A further one in five (18 per cent) stated it takes between three and six months to recruit to a vacancy.
  • The West Midlands (35 per cent), the East of England (35 per cent) and the East Midlands (34 per cent) were the areas with the highest levels of vacancies that were not filled within 12 months or longer.
  • Only one in eight GP partners (13 per cent) reported not needing to fill a gap in their workforce.
  • Around a third of GP partners who need to hire locums do so in order to cover long term employment vacancies (31%) or to be able to continue to provide a full range of services (30 per cent) to their patients.
  • There was a strong relationship between GPs’ workload and the ability of their practice to fill vacancies. Over four in 10 GP partners (44 per cent) who described their workload as excessive and significantly impacting on care also report being unable to fill vacancies, compared to only around one in seven (14 per cent) of this group who say their practice has been able to fill vacancies within a reasonable timeframe.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said:

“It is deeply concerning that so many GPs are reporting that their practices effectively have permanent holes in their workforce, which they are unable to fill. In addition to this, only a small number of GP practices are operating with no vacancies, while the vast majority of GP services are suffering from constant shortages of GPs. It is clear that the crisis is so bad that general practice is being kept afloat by the essential help of locums who are stepping in to provide day to day services to patients.

“These chronic shortages come despite government promises at the last election to recruit 5,000 more GPs, a pledge that has failed to materialise. As these figures demonstrate, those practices with long term vacancies are also those struggling with unmanageable workload, leaving many GP services struggling to provide even basic care to their community.

“We need ministers to listen to the warnings from grassroots GPs and implement in full their pledges in the GP Forward View to properly staff and resource general practice. Whilst NHS England has accepted the BMA’s recommendations from our Urgent Prescription for General Practice we now need words turned in to swift action to rapidly turn around this current crisis in GP services.”

See the results of the survey


Notes to editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.

  1. GP partners are the GPs who oversee and run GP practices in England.

For further information please contact:

British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JP
Telephone: 020 7383 6448 
Email: [email protected]
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