Pryers Solicitors have been looking at the pledge the Conservative Party has made to recruit thousands of new NHS staff.
One year after pledging to recruit 5,000 new GPs, the Conservative Party has pledged to deliver 6,000 more doctors in general practice in England by 2024-25 to increase patient appointments.
A Conservative statement said the additional nurses, physios and pharmacists would be on top of the 20,000 extra staff promised through the creation of primary care networks.
The Party claim that an extra 6,000 doctors and 6,000 more nurses will enable the NHS to deliver 50 million more appointments a year in GP surgeries – an increase of more than 15 per cent.
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also recently admitted that the 2015 pledge to recruit 5,000 GPs by 2020 has not been met.
In 2015, there were 34,500 GPs working in the NHS in England. But latest figures published by the NHS show that there are now fewer GPs than there were in 2015, when the target was announced. These numbers include registrars – trainee GPs who are qualified doctors but have not yet completed their specialist training.
Hancock told the BBC: “It’s true the number of GPs was falling when I became health secretary [in July 2018].”
Figures from NHS Digital show that when former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt left the Department of Health in July 2018, there were only 162 more GPs in the NHS than there were when he made his original commitment. Mr Hancock dropped the deadline when he took over.
Previously the Department of Health said one of the challenges it faces in growing GP numbers is a rise in those taking early retirement and part-time working.
Dr Richard Vautrey, from the British Medical Association, said: “We wait with some trepidation to see if this latest promise can deliver.”
“The lack of detail as to exactly how all these promises will be made good, particularly with no firm commitment for full reform of the ridiculous pension taxation system, means it remains to be seen whether these long overdue and very necessary improvements will be achieved.”
Speaking at the Labour party conference in September, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “You can’t trust the Tories with our NHS.
“They always make election promises which they fail to deliver on.
“Tory ministers promised us 5,000 extra GPs but in fact we have lost 1,600 GPs under the Tories.”
“After years of starving the NHS of cash, it’s got harder and harder to get a GP appointment under the Tories.
The party has pledged to train 500 more GPs each year from 2021-22 – bringing the total in training to 4,000 – and estimates that by 2024-25 there will be an additional 3,000 doctors working and training in General Practice.
This also included plans to recruit 6,000 more non-GP workforce like nurses, physios and pharmacists, and ensure all patients can access digital booking systems and phone or online consultations.
They also announced plans to make it easier for doctors and nurses hoping to move to the UK to obtain visas. They said medical professionals will be given “preferential treatment” over applicants with other jobs and that decisions on their applications would be “guaranteed” within two weeks. Medical professional applicants will also pay half the amount faced by others to undergo the process, at £464 rather than £928, and will be able to pay the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge through their salary.
In response to the Conservative Party its election manifesto, published last week, the Royal College of GPs warned that with general practice already facing a “severe shortage of GPs”, the situation could deteriorate further if mutual recognition of professional medical qualifications with other European nations ends as the UK leaves the EU.
Pressures on NHS GPs have been growing, with new figures revealing that out of the 3,000 NHS practitioners seeking help for mental health problems from, a total of 1,855 (56 percent) are GPs.
Another report by the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation says: “The shortfall in the number of GPs is so serious that it cannot be filled at all. The only way forward is to use the skills of other staff, including pharmacists and physiotherapists, much more widely and routinely in and alongside general practice.”
The report also predicted that in the next five years nurse shortages will double and GP gaps nearly treble, without radical action.
Figures from the report suggest that more than 30,000 extra nurses are needed and almost 3,000 GPs, with this predicted to rise to nearly 70,000 nurses and more than 7,000 GPs within five years. And after a decade the gap could be 100,000 and more than 11,000 respectively.
For nurses, they say studying in England must be made more attractive. Bursaries were removed and tuition fees introduced in 2016. The report warns this has had a negative effect and calls for the introduction of a £5,200 annual grant for student nurses. It also says students who have already completed a degree and then want to retrain to be a nurse should be exempt from university fees. It also suggests the NHS will need to recruit 5,000 new nurses from abroad every year – three times the figure it is currently recruiting.
For GPs, the report recommends a different approach, as international recruitment is extremely difficult. It says other staff, such as physiotherapists and pharmacists, will need to see some of the patients GPs are currently treating.
The NHS in England is short of more than 100,000 personnel – one in 11 posts. NHS national bodies will next month publish a long-awaited interim workforce implementation plan, which will set out potential ways of tackling the staffing crisis.
Within the context of the work that we do at Pryers, we are concerned that with increasing pressures on already stretched medical professionals, more mistakes will be made and more patients will suffer adverse outcomes from the treatment that they receive.