Just over one-third (35%) of London practices have current vacancies with shortages most common among employed GPs, a survey by Londonwide LMCs has found.
It also found that just under one-third (32%) of practices have GPs planning to retire in the next three years, with 36% of practices reporting they do not yet have a plan in place to replace them.
The survey, run between 24 November to 16 December 2020, saw 384 individuals from 316 different practices respond of Londonwide LMCs’ 1,100 member practices.
The number of practices reporting vacancies was higher among those with patient lists greater than 10,000: 39% of practices with between 10,000 and 14,999 patients had vacancies, compared to 26% of practices with between 3,000 to 5,999 patients.
All of the practices with more than 25,000 patients said they held current vacancies.
Workforce crisis unresolved
Dr Lisa Harrod-Rothwell, deputy CEO of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘It is clear that the GP workforce crisis remains unresolved, with around a third of all practices carrying vacancies, consistently across all list sizes.
‘The challenges of a backlog of care built up during the pandemic will only exacerbate the pressures on recruitment and retention, which is why practices need support to make more effective use of the finite GP capacity available, such as addressing un-resourced transfers of work from elsewhere in the system. Improving working conditions in this way would both reduce burnout and release capacity for patient care.’
She also noted that increasing the number of doctors in general practice was among several commitments to be delivered by mid-April 2021 in the Government’s GP Forward View.
‘It is particularly worth looking at are how many of the GPs who returned to practice solely to assist with the pandemic are counted against the much needed new GPs that the Forward View recognised were essential for patient care, and which it promised to deliver,’ she said.
The survey also found that most practices (72%) plan on retaining their GP contract and joining an Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) or Integrated Care System (ICS) in the next three years.
The question referred specifically to giving up GMS/PMS/APMS contracts for an ICP contract, and so is distinct from the general move towards ICS in which GPs retain their normal contracts.
Ms Harrod-Rothwell added: ‘The fact that almost three quarters of practices wish to retain a conventional GP contract, with the flexibility it gives them to tailor services to their patients’ needs, shows that any push towards at-scale working must not be at the expense of the close link that allows individual practices to so effectively meet the specific needs of the communities they care for.’