Exclusive: Almost one in four GP vacancies unfilled for more than a year

Almost a quarter of GP vacancies in England have been unfilled for more than a year, a GPonline survey suggests.

GP leaders said the findings were yet more evidence of the workforce crisis and called for immediate recurrent funding to support practices.

Of 347 GP respondents, over 30% said they had a current vacancy for GP partner, with around a third of those unfilled for over a year. Over 40% of respondents are currently trying to recruit a salaried GP, with almost a fifth of those vacancies unfilled for more than 12 months.

The survey results also revealed the difficulties practices face in recruiting other primary care staff, with around a fifth currently advertising for a practice nurse and 11% looking for a nurse practitioner.

GP practice vacancies

Just 32% of GPs said their practice did not currently have a vacancy for any post.

NHS England plans to invest £206m over the next five years to expand the primary care workforce, including meeting the government target for 5,000 extra GPs and 5,000 clinical practice staff.

The GP Forward View last month revealed measures including the recruitment of 500 GPs from overseas, targeted £20,000 bursaries to attract GP trainees to underdoctored areas, plans to attract 500 GP back into practice with targeted financial incentives and increased retainer compensation available from this month.

Meanwhile an extra £15m will be invested in practice nurse development, £112m to give every practice access to a clinical pharmacist, an extra 3,000 mental health therapists working in primary care by 2020, and £45m extra funding to help practices boost the role of reception and clerical staff.

Read more: GP Forward View in full

NHS England will also pilot medical assistants and primary care physiotherapist roles.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This is yet more evidence of the impact of the recruitment and retention crisis which leaves remaining staff under even more workload stress and impacts on their ability to maintain services to their patients.

‘While the longer-term commitment made by NHS England for funding by 2020/21 provides some hope on the horizon, it is imperative that funding flows now for practices to remain sustainable and to convince junior doctors that committing to a career in general practice is worth doing.

'Additional recurrent funding would also enable struggling practices to expand their teams in others ways, through the employment of pharmacists, therapists or other support staff for clinicians in the practice.’

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