Exclusive: One in five practices has two or more GP vacancies

Almost one in five practices has vacancies for two or more GP roles, a GPonline poll suggests.

Some 14% of GP partners said their practice had vacancies for two GPs, while a further 5% said their practice had three or more GP roles unfilled. A total of 28% said their practice had one GP vacancy, while the remaining 53% said there were no GP vacancies in their practice.

The figures also suggest that practices are struggling to recruit both partners and salaried GPs. Some 29% of the vacancies available for each of these roles have been unfilled for more than a year.

Almost a quarter of the 217 GP partners responding to the poll (24%) said that their practice had at least one vacancy for a GP partner, while slightly more (26%) said their practice had at least one vacancy for a salaried GP.

However, the recruitment situation appears to have improved slightly in the 12 months since GPonline last carried out this survey.

Last year, 25% of GPs said their practice had a vacancy for a partner, while 38% had a vacancy for a salaried GP. In the 2016 poll, 44% of the partner vacancies had been unfilled for more than 12 months, while 38% of salaried GP posts had been unfilled for this length of time.

Practices also seem to be facing fewer problems recruiting GP locums compared with last year. This year, just 8% of GP partners said their practice had a vacancy for a locum, compared with 22% last year.

The drop could reflect the growing trend for GPs to opt for locum careers in response to growing workload, meaning more locums are available.

Practice nurse vacancies

Some 24% of respondents also said that their practice had a vacancy for a practice nurse. However, nurse vacancies were more likely to be filled more quickly. The vast majority of these vacancies (65%) had been open for less than six months and just 8% had been unfilled for more than 12 months.

The findings come as part of a series of GPonline investigations into practice sustainability.

Earlier this week, GPonline reported that over a quarter of GP partners fear their practice may close within five years. Difficulty recruiting GPs was a key reason that many partners felt that their practice was unsustainable.

GPonline has also found that over 60% of GP partners plan to cut their practice’s use of locums in the next year in a bid to rein in costs and half could reduce their own pay to keep their practices sustainable.

Struggling to recruit

One partner responding to the poll said: ‘There are less GPs around and currently very few locums in our area. We’ve had no takers for adverts for GP partners and salaried GPs, despite us being a well-respected training practice with high number of GPs. I can see smaller nearby practices are struggling.’

Many respondents said they were finding it difficult to recruit permanent GPs because locum work was better paid, more flexible and enabled GPs to have a better work/life balance.

‘GPs earn more doing locums and they don't want to commit when practices are going under,’ said one partner.

Another said: ‘We have two salaried GPs doing short sessions and they don't do visits or paperwork. There is no incentive for newly-qualified GPs to take up substantive post because there are plenty of locum jobs with less responsibility and more money.’

Even practices with no vacancies said they had struggled to recruit. ‘It took much longer than usual to fill two salaried GP posts and we only had two applicants for the two jobs despite being a well-respected, well-earning training practice with new purpose-built building,’ said one partner.

‘We are luckier than most in our area who have had vacancies for number of months and in some cases years. We also had to agree to salaries much higher than we had planned, which meant balancing the reduction in drawings for the partners with the benefits of reduction in workload,' they added.

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