Boosting GP numbers should be 'a top government priority', report warns

Boosting GP numbers should be a top government priority but there is a 'major gap' in evidence about practices' activity and workload, a DH advisory body has warned.

GP workforce: DH must make boosting numbers a priority
GP workforce: DH must make boosting numbers a priority

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence, which advises the DH on numbers of medical training posts, said work must be done to make general practice a more appealing career choice for medical students. It also called for more practice nurses.

Preliminary findings from a GP workforce review by the centre said that if the government’s target of achieving and maintaining 3,250 GP trainees per annum in England is achieved by 2015, ‘it may be sufficient to meet expected patient demand to 2030’.

If the target were achieved, it would result in an increase of about 15,300 GPs by 2030 compared with 2011 levels, it said.

The report said: ‘We consider that achieving and maintaining 3,250 GP trainees per annum is necessary to address future demand, and should be the top priority.

‘A substantial share of this workforce increase should go towards improving support for under-doctored areas to help achieve more equal access to GP services across England.

'Given the rapidly changing nature of healthcare and the inherent uncertainties about future demand, however, we also recommend there be periodic reviews of future GP workforce supply and demand every 3 - 5 years supported by a stronger evidence base.

‘We note with concern the lack of recent substantive evidence on GP activity and workload – a major gap in the evidence base. Likewise, there is a significant lack of quantitative data on the practice nurse workforce.’

The report said that by 2030, women are expected to make up the majority of the GP workforce. Projections suggest that the average age of GPs will be lower, and the number of GPs in their thirties will have doubled, it said.

A final report on the Centre for Workforce Intelligence GP workforce review is expected this summer.

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