Solution to GP workforce crisis must come before NHS reform, MPs told

The workforce crisis and underfunding of general practice must be tackled before reforms set out in the NHS long-term plan are implemented, senior NHS figures have told MPs.

Parliament (Photo: iStock.com/BrianAJackson)
Parliament (Photo: iStock.com/BrianAJackson)

The experts also warned MPs that a workforce implementation plan due to be published after the spending review later this year should be fast-tracked and brought forward as an immediate priority.

The warnings come just a week after the NHS long-term plan set out proposals to integrate all GP practices into 'primary care networks' that would pool funding and link general practice with primary care across groups of 50,000 patients.

Giving evidence to a House of Commons health and social care committee meeting, primary care association chair Dr Nav Chana said that workforce issues and other resourcing problems should be prioritised under the long-term plan to create a stable platform on which to deliver NHS England’s vision of 'fully integrated community-based healthcare’.

Workforce plan

Dr Chana welcomed commitments in the plan, but said GP Forward View pledges to improve the workforce should be met before any system changes took place.

He insisted that primary care must be ‘stablised and functioning well so that the primary care networks described in the plan - which build on flourishing general practice - can really become local system integrators’.

Experts warned MPs that the workforce implementation plan, outlined briefly in the long-term plan but not due to be published until after the spending review later this year, should be brought forward.

King’s Fund chief executive Richard Murray said the spending review would come in October or November, which meant the workforce plan may not appear until 2020.

Spending review

'There’s a lot that can be done well in advance of a spending review and I think leaving it that late means next year we’ll just be treading water and won't make any progress.’

Chris Hopson, chief executive at NHS Providers, added: ‘When I go and talk to current trust chief executives what they say is their biggest problem is the current workforce shortages. So for me the workforce implementation plan has got to very quickly do some quick things that will enable us to start closing those gaps now.’

He cited an end to pension problems, the expansion of skill mix and a ‘temporary expansion’ of overseas recruitment as possible quick fixes.

However, NHS confederation chief executive Niall Dickson argued: ‘We need to move away from our over-reliance on overseas recruitment. We are very dependent and will be for a very long time but over time we ought to be doing that… As a developed country, taking people from less developed countries doesn't seem the right way forward.’

NHS England's international GP recruitment programme, launched as part of the GP Forward View in 2016, aims to recruit 2,000 overseas GPs into the workforce by 2020.

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