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Non-Doctors hired for doctor jobs: Locum GP Job Crisis as Surgeries buckle under pressure.

Doctors in the UK having a meeting

Yet again, Tory promises have failed the NHS, and working in one of the most noble professions has become arduous in the United Kingdom. The Government's decision to increase the funding of non-doctors such as “physician associates” to £1.4bn this year has put a strain on locum GPs to find work as surgeries are buckling under financial pressure. Many surgeries are hiring non-doctors for doctor jobs, which means GPs who worked as locum GPs for 10 years or more have found their jobs gone overnight. The Government has promised to deliver 6000 new GPs by 2024, in which they have unsurprisingly failed. An astonishing number of appointments, which is nearly half of the appointments in GP practices are now being seen by non-GP practice staff. GP surgeries have benefited financially from these non-doctor roles and are now cutting back on doctors’ work, which means there is increased competition for salaried GP positions. It has been noted that at the moment for one salaried GP position, there are between 40 to 60 applicants.

A survey conducted by Pulse last year has revealed that there is a 44% reduction in the number of GP vacancies advertised since November 2022. Interestingly, the most recent NHS figures showed that the number of “ad hoc” locums, which used to provide temporary cover in general practice in England fell from 2,511 in March 2023 to 1,624 in March 2024, a significant fall of 35%. The BMA has been outspoken about this and has blamed it as an “employment crisis” due to the reduction in general practice funding. This crisis is further exacerbated by the Additional Roles Scheme (ARRS), which introduced 18 roles in primary care in 2019, which does not include doctors. Locum Agency recruitment consultant Ruth Hennessey says that bookings have fallen by 90%. And when they do get work it gets filled within seconds. She further states that there are more and more GPs willing to travel anywhere to work, in fact some have even gone back to working in Hospitals.

Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs stated that the ARRS scheme should be used to cover GPs, not plug gaps in the workforce and drive highly qualified doctors out of work. She also stated that “General practice has faced decades of neglect, underfunding and poor workforce planning and now we don’t have the GPs to keep up with the growing need for our care. It’s extremely frustrating to hear that some GPs are struggling to find vacancies.”

An NHS spokesperson said that the NHS is training more and more GPs and that the latest facts show an increase of 807 fully qualified GPs and under the NHS long-term workforce plan there is going to be a further increase in the number of GP training places by 50% by 2031-32. Therefore, the additional primary care roles should be utilised to support the hardworking GPs with nursing and physiotherapy needs rather than driving doctors out of work.

Lastly, the government has consistently promised to deliver a better NHS and improve the current infrastructure. GPs are one of the most essential parts of the NHS framework. With the current situation and government schemes, the NHS is going to be staffed with underqualified staff and in turn compromise patient care. Several thousands have already lost faith in their GP practices and have given up hopes of receiving good care from GP practice. Many appointments are being seen by non-doctors who are not qualified as doctors and this ultimately brings down the quality of care provided in the NHS.

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