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Research into the possible replacement of general practitioners in primary care teams

Three doctors and nurses stand with empty silhouettes between them.  Healthcare workforce shortage, recruitment problem, medical profession

In recent years, the landscape of general medicine in Britain has undergone significant changes, sparking debates and concerns among stakeholders. The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned of a worrying trend: the possible replacement of general practitioners (GPs) by staff in other roles within primary care teams, particularly those recruited through the Extra Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS)

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on GP Online

Government promises, such as an additional 6,000 GPs in general practice, along with the recruitment of 26,000 ARRS staff and the commitment to make an additional 50 million appointments, are falling short of expectations. Although ARRS recruitment goals were reportedly met ahead of schedule, the goal of increasing the number of primary care physicians remains elusive.

Provable gaps and declining GP numbers

Critics point to gaps in the evidence, citing a decline of almost 1,000 fully qualified full-time GPs in England since the introduction of the ARRS in 2019. Meanwhile, the surge in ARRS staff, totaling over 30,000, is contributing significantly contributes to the claimed increase in the number of appointments. . This shift has resulted in GPs handling a smaller share of total appointments, currently 46%, compared to 52% in the year prior to the pandemic.

Challenges in allocating funding

The disparity in funding between GPs and ARRS staff has raised concerns about the sustainability of primary care. GPs are burdened with additional responsibilities as they oversee the influx of non-GP staff, exacerbating stress and burnout. With the patient to GP ratio rising to 2,298 patients per fully qualified GP, there are major concerns that GPs are taking on more responsibility and being held accountable for errors.

Despite calls from the BMA to allow ARRS funding for GP recruitment, the government has remained steadfast in its position. However, there is hope that increased funding, possibly recommended by the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), could ease staffing pressures. In addition, Labor has hinted at tackling GP retention issues if elected, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable solutions.

Amid the looming general election, GPs are fighting for public support and investment in the profession. They seek to tackle funding disparities and ensure the sustainability of primary care in Britain. As the debate continues, it is imperative that stakeholders come together to address the challenges facing general practice and chart a path to a resilient and efficient healthcare system for all.

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