GP shortage reaching meltdown proportions

30 Jan 03
Vacancy rates for GPs are rising rapidly, putting pressure on family doctors and making it more difficult for patients to get appointments, the British Medical Association said this week.

31 January 2003

In its latest survey of vacancies, the BMA found that posts unfilled for three months or more stood at 3.4% of all GP jobs in England and 2.8% of those in Wales. The government, which has disputed the BMA's figures, published its own figures last November, finding vacancies of 2.7% and 1.8% respectively.

The BMA said some areas had significantly higher three-month vacancy rates – in Greenwich it was 16%, while in Bexley 13.39%.

High vacancy rates were not confined to the Southeast of England – North East Lincolnshire's was 13.13% and Doncaster East's 11.76%.

The association said the missing GPs would normally look after more than 1 million patients. These patients had to be reallocated, meaning GPs are squeezing 61 more patients on to their lists, which normally number 1,800.

BMA GPs' leader Dr John Chisholm said there was a 'dire shortage' of family doctors.

'We are approaching meltdown in general practice. There aren't enough to go round. If current trends continue we will see no-go areas where it is simply not possible to fill vacancies.'

The new GP contract, on which the profession is due to vote in the spring, could reverse the trend.

'The solution lies in a new GP contract to make general practice a more attractive career for young GPs and to encourage existing GPs to stay in practice or return if they have already left,' he said.


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