Focus on doctor retention must equal recruitment efforts, GMC chief warns

Efforts to bolster the NHS workforce must focus as much on retention of doctors as on recruitment - and record numbers of trainees alone are not enough, the GMC's chief executive has warned.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey (Photo: GMC)

Delivering a keynote speech at the 2022 GMC annual conference, Charlie Massey said that recruitment alone was not an ‘overnight solution’ to the current workforce crisis - arguing that there should be a greater focus on 'retaining and valuing' those already in the job.

Mr Massey - who labelled medical staff shortages ‘one of the most significant challenges’ facing the NHS - said that the profession had to ‘get better at looking after its doctors’ and their wellbeing.

He added that a lack of care was ‘driving’ doctors out and called GMC statistics showing that almost a quarter of the medical workforce plans to leave ‘sobering’. He also said that new-look appraisals would be ‘less of a summative box-ticking exercise’ and would do more to help doctors.

Doctor retention

His comments follow a survey by campaign group Rebuild General Practice last week which found that more than four in five GPs have experienced work-related anxiety, stress or depression in the past year.

Data from the GMC’s State of Medical Education and Practice report last year revealed significant deteriorations in wellbeing, burnout and intensity of workload among doctors, with a total of 23% of doctors saying they had considered quitting.

Mr Massey said at the conference: ‘One of the most significant challenges is in relation to the workforce. Understandably the political focus tends to be on things like numbers of new medical school places and numbers of new doctors entering training for different specialties.

‘I don’t deny that those things are important, but none of them will create overnight solutions. So what we really need to focus on to get through the next few years is to retain and value the people we already have.

Staff wellbeing

‘Put simply, we need to get better at looking after doctors and their wellbeing. We need to get better at demonstrating how we value doctors and other healthcare professionals.

'We need to make sure that working environments are the best they can be. And we need to ensure that the culture within those workplaces is supportive, inclusive and kind.’

Commenting on doctors' appraisals, he said: ‘The pandemic also forced us all to rethink appraisal, positioning it as less of a summative box-ticking exercise and more of a formative approach to help doctors reflect on and improve their practice.’

A record number of people accepted places to begin GP specialist training in 2021, with the total intake reaching the landmark figure of 4,000 for the first time according to figures from Health Education England (HEE).

However, the profession continues to lose doctors thanks to factors such as high workloads and punitive pension rules, with the workforce slumping by more than 350 GPs over the past year.

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