Patient safety in general practice could be ‘at risk’ – unless chronic shortage of GPs is turned around, with nearly 600 practices at risk of closure

RCGP | Published online: 18 September 2016

Patient safety in general practice across the UK could be ‘at risk’, if nothing is done to turn around the current chronic shortage of GPs, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners – with 594 practices across the UK at risk of closure by 2020 if more family doctors are not recruited.

In response, the RCGP is launching a ground-breaking new video and guide – which aim to help recruit thousands of additional foundation doctors, medical students and sixth form students into a career in general practice.

The RCGP says that as the population grows in size, and increases in age, there is a growing shortfall in the number of GPs – and estimates the total shortfall of GPs will stand at 9,940 by 2020.

The College says that unless drastic action is taken to ensure there are enough doctors in the workforce, thousands of patients could be forced to travel miles to their nearest GP practice or be left stranded with no family doctor at all.

Their launch comes against the backdrop of a health service that is faced with a population that is getting older and growing in size – with a resultant increase in the number of people suffering from chronic, long-term conditions and multiple-illnesses.

GPs and their teams now carry out around 1.3m consultations a day. Yet despite research stipulating that workload has increased by 16% over the last seven years, the College estimates that the number of full time equivalent GPs across the UK has actually fallen to 35,589 from 35,990 in 2013/14.

The RCGP believes that each nation of the UK will have a substantial shortfall in the number of its full time equivalent GPs by 2020, predicting that:

  • England will have a deficit of 8,371 GPs
  • Scotland will have a deficit of 830 GPs
  • Wales will have a deficit of 424 GPs, and
  • Northern Ireland will have a deficit of 316 GPs.

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