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Tackling staff shortages, stress, and burnout in General Practice

We understand that GP practices are currently facing a number of challenges –  the drive to modernise the primary care estate; workforce shortages; and increasing levels of stress and burnout within the profession, to name but a few.

In a series of short articles we help you to examine some of the ways that NHS England’s ‘General Practice Forward View’ (GPFV), published in April 2016, aims to tackle these issues, and what this could mean for your own practice and daily working life.

Here, we look at the issues around workforce shortages, and increasing levels of stress and burnout within the profession.

The scale of workforce shortages and stress within General Practice

71% of those surveyed by the BMA in 2015 stated that workload had negatively impacted their personal commitment to a career in general practice. And according to Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) research published in 2015, 8,000 new full time equivalent GPs are needed by 2020.

And workforce shortages could be contributing to the pressures felt by those currently working in the profession - with more than 60% of doctors in England reporting having experienced mental illness (Cardiff University, March 2016).

How the GPFV aims to help

Addressing workforce and workload issues is one of nine ‘must dos’ set out by NHS England for 2016/17.

In order to expand the workforce GPFV aims to:

  • attract or retain at least 500 GPs through steps to simplify return to work routes and financial incentives targeted at under-doctored areas
  • introduce a national induction and refresher scheme that will offer £2,300 a month bursaries to doctors planning to return to general practice, coupled with a campaign to encourage junior doctors to become GPs
  • recruit an extra 5,000 GPs and 'a minimum of 5,000 other staff working in general practice by 2020/21'

“We are noticing recently that the number of foundation doctors going directly in to GP training is falling. More doctors are gaining other experience before entering GP training.” GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chairman and Wesleyan Junior Advisory Board Chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni.

In addition to the plan to attract and retain doctors into general practice, the GPFV aims to help address the pressures felt by existing GPs with a dedicated pot of money for extra support, including help for GPs suffering stress and burnout.

Key considerations for your practice

NHS chiefs have said that the GPFV is a five-year plan to help GP surgeries ‘get back on their feet’. So it will take some time before the changes are implemented and the benefits start to be felt by those on the ground.

If your practice is hit by workforce shortages due to staff experiencing ill-health, or periods of stress and burnout, the costs can be significant. In fact, the cost of hiring a Locum GP in England can be up to £700 a day (Medeconomics UK Survey, October 2015).

And you may also need Locum support for a significant period of time if a member of your team leaves your practice altogether – A Pulse 2016 survey has revealed that around 12% of all GP posts are vacant, and it takes an average of 6 months to fill a position.

So, it’s sensible to have a contingency plan in place for your business, should you be faced with the unexpected.

As well as thinking through the day to day practicalities of running your Practice with fewer staff, you should consider how you would protect the financial aspects of your business. Ask yourself:

  • As an employer, what processes have you got in place to spot the signs of stress and burnout amongst your own workforce, and what support could you make available?
  • Does your practice have adequate locum insurance in place?
  • If you have a GP Partnership Agreement in place, how are the financial liabilities for the long term absence of a partner through ill health distributed (are they shared or personal to the absent partner)?
  • What contingency plans are in place for the long term absence of key staff such as Practice Managers, salaried GPs, and Nurse Practitioners?
  • Would you benefit from an assessment of the financial risks for your practice and the partners?

If you'd like to discuss any aspect of your professional or personal finances please arrange an appointment with your local Wesleyan Financial Consultant - email or call 0800 980 1277 quoting reference 45936. They are specially trained to understand the financial circumstances of GPs and will be happy to meet you, under no obligation, at a time and place that suits you.

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