New analysis by the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre warns that without urgent, significant policy action, the NHS in England is facing a crippling shortage of GPs and general practice nurses over the coming decade.
There is currently a shortage of around 4,200 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs, which is projected to rise to around 10,700 FTE GPs in 2030/31. This means that more than 1 in 4 of the 37,800 GP posts needed to deliver pre-pandemic standards of care would be vacant. However, if an increasing number of GPs leave the profession due to burnout and if newer roles are not successfully integrated in multidisciplinary general practice teams, the projected shortfall could increase to 20,400 FTE GPs, or around half of posts being vacant, in 2030/31.
Using any of three possible scenarios – ‘current policy’, optimistic and pessimistic –the REAL Centre predicts there would be a shortfall of GPs and GPNs in the next decade.
The researchers also note that under ‘current policy’, an estimated shortfall of around 1,700 FTE in general practice nurse numbers in 2021/22 is projected to grow to around 6,400 FTE – over 1 in 4 posts – by 2030/31. In a more pessimistic scenario involving increasing nurse leaver rates and unsuccessful integration into general practice of newer roles, such as pharmacists and physiotherapists, the projected shortfall rises to around 10,100 FTE nurses in general practice by 2030/31, close to 1 in 2 posts.
In the ‘current policy’ scenario, the number of FTE nurses in general practice is projected to decline by around 0.6% a year (from 16,600 in 2021/22) over the 9 years to 2030/31. Even in the optimistic scenario, the analysis projects only a slow increase in nurse supply in general practice from around 16,600 in 2021/22 to just over 17,000 by 2030/31. In the pessimistic scenario, the model projects that nurse supply in general practice will decline by just over a quarter (28%) to around 12,000 by 2030/31, driven by current trends and assumptions regarding increases in nurse leaver rates.