GP Vacancies Rise to Record High, Survey Suggests

GP staffing levels have been a cause for concern for many practices across the UK and now latest figures suggest that GP vacancies are higher than ever before.

From long patient waits, rushed appointments and even GP practices closing their doors; the of lack of GPs across the UK has a concerning impact on us all.

NHS statistics suggest that more than 6,000 GP posts advertised in England are currently unfilled, with a vacancy rate of 15.8 percent it suggests Government pledges to address long waiting times for GP appointments aren't working.

Figures were collected by Pulse magazine in a survey of 660 family doctors. It follows reports of patients being told they can only book GP appointments for urgent conditions and millions finding it harder to see their GP.

Impact on Patient Care and GPs

Lack of staff makes it a challenge for a practice to run smoothly and research has found that long waits to see a GP and pressures can impact patient care.

An analysis by GPonline found a link between practice funding and performance. According to the study, practices rated ‘outstanding’ have 0.68 (FTE) GPs per 1,000 patients. ‘Good’ practices have 0.56 and those rated ‘requires improvement’ practices have 0.46.

While Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs warned overstretched doctors were at risk of burnout and mistakes.

“Almost every surgery in England is now one GP short, at least, and the implications of this are very serious for the wellbeing of our GPs and wider practice teams, and for the provision of safe high quality patient care.”

Relying on Practitioners

List sizes are growing at practices but with a GP vacancies remaining unfilled, the soaring workload piles on the pressure and responsibility.

One GP, who didn’t want to be named, said that they had to rely on nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics.

“This provides appointments but means that individual GP list sizes have risen substantially. Results, letters, paperwork, prescribing requests and admin workload all go to the named GP, so high list sizes bring high work load and responsibility.”

How Can Practices Manage Staff Shortfall?

Forecasting can be tricky but it is essential to look ahead if you want to plan effectively. With GP shortfalls it may be necessary to rely on practitioners to plug up the gaps. However, with practitioners, nurses and GPs working on different schedules and possibly different sites, rota management can leave management feeling like they are spinning multiple plates.

We have come up with three simple ways to help your practice keep going and providing care during times of staff shortage.

Plan rotas in advance

Planning your rotas in advance allows you to make changes should a practitioner not be able to cover a shift. It reduces the possibility of last minute gaps in service and increasing patients waiting time for an appointment.

Have on-call staff

Rather than being left shorthanded, have staff who you can call on to come in at short notice. These may include nurses, paramedics and locum GPs.

Use rota planning software

If your staffing numbers are increasing or diversifying to include practitioners then it’s likely your rota planning is rapidly becoming a whole lot more complicated. Adopting software will reduce the manual workload involved with creating rotas. It will give you a clear overview of who can work each day and send staff shift information directly to their phones.

To discuss how RotaMaster can help your practice manage your staffing requirements call 01924 252360 or email