A survey has found that almost 12% of all GP posts in the UK are vacant.
The Pulse survey, which measures GP vacancy rates at 690 GPs across the UK, found that 11.7% of posts are vacant, representing a 9.1% increase on last year and the highest GP vacancy rates ever recorded by Pulse’s survey.
The survey also found that 73% of practices have had to recruit at least one GP in the last 12 months, while 47% have had to recruit a partner.
The time it has taken to recruit a partner has also increased, taking at least six months to do so.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “General practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, caused by years of underinvestment in and undervalue of our service.
“General practice makes 90% of all NHS patient contacts. GPs and our teams are making at least 60 million more patient consultations a year than we were five years ago, but over the same period our workforce has not risen in step with demand – and we have also seen a decline in resources for our service.”
Official figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed that GP numbers decreased by 1.9% from 34,712 to 34,055 between 2014 and 2015.
Baker added: “This survey brings home just how important it is that we do everything in our power to recruit more GPs, urgently implement schemes to retain existing ones, and make it easier for trained family doctors to return to practice in the UK following a career break or period working abroad.
“NHS England’s recent GP Forward View announcement provides a lifeline for general practice; now it is vital the proposals in the document are implemented urgently so that GPs and our teams are fully supported to provide excellent patient care now, and in the future.
“General practice is the bedrock of the health service. We keep the NHS sustainable and our patients safe, so it’s vital that we have enough GPs and practice team members to do so for years to come.”