GP shortage will be made worse by four-year training, warns report

Plans to extend GP training to four years will create a 'significant drop in GP supply' that will take years to address, a report commissioned by the DH warns.

DH: review suggests measures to tackle GP shortage insufficient
DH: review suggests measures to tackle GP shortage insufficient

Plans to boost the proportion of specialty training posts that are for general practice to 50% will not do enough to tackle a looming GP shortage, the report warns.

The report by the Health and Education National Strategic Exchange (HENSE), which brings together senior NHS staff from the DH and other NHS organisations, reviewed medical and dental school intakes in England.

It also advised that medical school intake should be slashed by 2% to alleviate a predicted oversupply of hospital doctors.

The review suggested that the gap between supply and demand of GPs will increase steadily between now and 2040, whereas there was likely to be an oversupply of hospital doctors.

The review said: ‘Caution would be needed, as well as a clear plan for a safe transition, if a policy to extend GP training were to be implemented.’

Increasing the minimum retirement age for doctors to 67 could also go some way to relieving the undersupply of GPs, the review said. However, the move would also exacerbate the oversupply of hospital doctors it pointed out.

The review revealed that any costs created by increasing GP numbers would be covered by the existing NHS budget for England.

BMA GP trainee subcommittee chairman Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said it was inevitable that GP supply would fall following an increase in the length of training. He said this would be taken into account during all discussions around extended training.

‘I expect there will be a blip in 2018 because the first set of four year trainees start in 2015. If there is one year with no trainees coming out then there will be a blip.

‘That blip will only be for a year with a natural knock one effect on subsequent years. However we hope the benefit that we get from four year training will mitigate that.’

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