Almost a third of practices in England have been unable to fill GP staff vacancies for a year according to a new BMA survey of 3,567 partners.
Almost a third of GP partners (31%) have been unable to fill vacancies in the last 12 months, it was found. And only 13% of practices reported not needing to fill a gap in their staff.
The problem is worst regionally in the West Midlands (35%), the East of England (35%) and the East Midlands, where 34% of practices reported having vacancies that were not filled within a year or longer.
Paying for locums to fill workforce gaps:
Practices are hiring locums to cover long-term employment vacancies in 31% of cases, and to be able to continue to provide a full range of services to patients in 30% of cases.
Close to half of GP partners (44%) who described their workload as excessive and significantly impacting on care also report being unable to fill vacancies, compared to only 14% of this group who say their practice has been able to fill vacancies within a reasonable timeframe.
“Deeply concerning crisis”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said: “It is deeply concerning that so many GPs are reporting that their practices effectively have permanent holes in their workforce, which they are unable to fill.
“It is clear that the crisis is so bad that general practice is being kept afloat by the essential help of locums who are stepping in to provide day-to-day services to patients.
“These chronic shortages come despite government promises at the last election to recruit 5,000 more GPs, a pledge that has failed to materialise.
Dr Nagpaul called on ministers to listen warnings from general practice implement in full the pledges in the GP Forward View to properly staff and resource general practice.