Of these, almost one in five have been unfilled for more than a year, almost half for more than six months. One respondent wrote: 'We have had a full-time GP resign to emigrate to Australia (with his newly qualified GP wife) and cannot afford to replace him with another GP. Employing a nurse practitioner can only partly mitigate this and we have been unable to fill a salaried position.'
One compounding problem is that when general practice becomes an unpopular career option, this tends to increase the pressure on those who remain in the profession.
Our survey also found that in almost a third of practices, one or more GPs had taken early retirement in the previous year, with more than another third anticipating that GPs would take early retirement in the following year.
Other comments included:
- 'This is an absolute crisis for practices, which needs immediate attention from Whitehall.'
- 'We are all considering earlier retirement due to mountainous workload increases.'
- 'Several GPs have been looking at different options as the government and media pressure and the working conditions are less favourable than being a locum.'
Elsewhere in this issue, we look at GP premises problems and financial worries that have led protesters out on to the streets in an attempt to save their threatened surgeries. The Medical Practitioners' Union raises the possibility of industrial action by GPs.
General practice's trump card is that it is key to the government's aim to move care out of hospitals into communities. CCGs must do their utmost not only to make this happen, but also to ensure that funding follows this work into primary care.
The government's NHS policies threaten GPs, the greatest asset the NHS has. Perhaps now would be the time to cut GP workload by reducing the QOF but guaranteeing that the funding would not be lost to primary care?