RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker warned that proposals by the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) to scrap the GP trainee supplement will deter medical graduates from going into general practice and exacerbate current workforce shortages.
In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Dr Baker said that the proposals – which would see GP trainees paid 31% less than hospital trainees – would make government plans to boost the GP workforce by 5,000 by 2020 ‘impossible to achieve’.
In a call for the government to reject the proposals, she wrote: ‘I am extremely concerned that this proposal, if implemented, would have a catastrophic impact on GP recruitment, leading to a worsening of the current workforce pressures that general practice is under and compromising the ability of GPs to continue to provide safe patient care.’
The RCGP said it took the ‘extraordinary step’ to intervene on the pay proposals – usually the realm of the GPC – because of grave concerns over how the move could affect the profession.
Demand on GP workforce
England is already 3,300 GPs short, and another 8,000 will be needed over the next five years to manage the ‘rocketing demand of a growing and ageing population’, according to RCGP estimates.
GPonline reported in January – when evidence for the move was submitted to the DDRB – that the proposals could make it impossible for trainees with financial or family commitments to enter general practice.
The DDRB suggests compensating removal of the supplement with the introduction of a geographically-dependent flexible pay premium, but RCGP warned that these payments were ‘not guaranteed for all’.
Dr Baker said: ‘It's extremely rare for the college to be commenting on contractual matters, which is why in my letter I have asked Mr Hunt to enter into negotiations with the BMA to resolve this, but we cannot sit back and stay silent on something which is a threat to the future of our profession - and ultimately the care we deliver to patients.
‘It is nonsensical that at a time when we should all be working together to recruit and retain as many GPs as possible, measures are being proposed and implemented that will only serve to deter people from choosing general practice.’