GP vacancies have increased by 480% due to shortages of available staff. But what effect does this have on patient well-being?
A new survey of 860 GPs by medical magazine Pulse found the average vacancy rate at their surgeries was 12.2%. This has risen from 11.7% reported last year and compares with just 2.1% in 2011.
Out of these practices, 158 said they had ceased trying to hire a replacement GP in the past year, whilst others were reportedly hiring pharmacists or therapists to take appointments in their absence.
Meanwhile other practices are shutting down altogether due to failure to recruit a new partner.
These staffing gaps increase waiting times for patients, as well as adding pressure onto remaining staff members.
Liz McAnulty, Chair of the Patients Association, said: “These figures are highly concerning. We call for safe, compassionate, person-centred care, and delivering it will plainly be impossible without a sufficient workforce. Soaring GP vacancy rates are a significant warning sign that we may increasingly struggle to deliver the care patients need.”
In April last year, NHS England’s ‘GP Forward View’ attempted to address problems with GP recruitment by providing an emergency fund of £500m to help incentivise family doctors to remain in post or return to work in the UK.
Nevertheless, NHS Digital revealed that full-time GP figures decreased for the six months after the announcement.