Press Release: Urgent Action Needed: Kent's General Practices at Tipping Point
Date published: 21/11/2023
A county-wide survey of GPs suggests that the general practice landscape in Kent is at a tipping point. The first of such a survey since 2017 of General Practice Staff, across the county by the Kent Local Medical Committee, reveals a worrying picture of declining GP numbers working in challenged estates with unsustainable increases in workload.
The survey data shows our Kentish GP community facing an imminent workforce crisis. A staggering 57% of GPs are considering retirement (30%), reducing their hours (19%) or leaving the profession entirely (8%) within the next 5 years. This planned exodus is one of the biggest changes in the recent survey figures – up more than ten percentage points since 2017.
To make matters worse Kent and Medway GP to patient ratio already trails the national average by 18%. Recruitment is being hampered by confusion around funding streams, poor estates and a sparsity of applications causing some practices to cease recruitment.
General Practice Doctors’ workload concerns have worsened since the last report in 2017. GP staff report working well beyond their contracted hours at an average of 38% more hours per week. Leading to an uplift of ten-percentage points in GPs reporting their workloads as ‘unmanageable’ since 2017. The ramifications of this are evident. A concerning 82% of GPs have reported feeling ‘significant’ stress and work-life balance is named in 2023 as the most influential factor on whether GPs will stay in the profession – up from third place in 2017.
Various complicating factors are also contributing to the deteriorating situation in primary care. The influx of tasks from secondary care, tightening regulations, and an ever-evolving funding model have piled on additional pressure. Furthermore, the current funding system for general practices is perceived to be out of sync with the present-day demands and inflation. Inadequate support from the NHS, especially regarding premises and IT infrastructure, exacerbates an already grim picture.
Although Primary Care Networks (PCNs) were established to bring about positive change, GPs and Practice Managers use the survey to report that they have instead added more administrative layers and created connectivity challenges. The pandemic and recent NHSE restructuring have further complicated the landscape.
Despite these challenges and pressures, general practice continues to deliver record numbers of appointments and to innovate in the delivery of services to ensure patients have access to the care they need. The total number of appointments in general practice has increased by 35% since 2019 to 975,052 in September 2023.
Speaking about the survey findings, Chair of the Kent LMC Dr Gaurav Gupta said: “If communities across Kent and Medway want a safe and accessible NHS General Practice service then we need the Government to increase funding and reduce administrative burdens. This will enable General Practice to get the desperately required workforce and infrastructure in place and allow us to provide decent healthcare services to our patients.”
In summary, the Kent Local Medical Committee is issuing an urgent call on our local MPs and other stakeholders to lobby the government and NHS England to:
1. Address Funding Disparities: Reduce the burden of managing multiple funding streams and increase recurrent sustainable funding to General Practice services in Kent and Medway.
2. Focus on Infrastructure: Whether it's about the physical premises where GPs work or the digital infrastructure supporting them, there needs to be a significant uplift in investment, recurrent sustainable funding to General Practice, and streamlining of processes to address these challenges.
3. Reduce Bureaucratic Pressures: Reduce administrative burden on GPs urgently. Whether it's arising from the PCN arrangements or other sources, reducing this weight will free up valuable time in practices to see patients.
4. Reassess and Reinvent: The PCN initiative requires a thorough review. The patient-centric approach needs to remain at the forefront, with bureaucracy taking a back seat.
For further information or to arrange an interview please call:
Kent LMC 01622 851197
Further information about the survey:
Kent LMC surveyed our constituents over 5 weeks across June and July 2023. 229 responses were received.
We asked respondents age and job title: 73% of survey responses are age 46 and above, compared to 53% of responses in our 2017 survey, an increase in GPs who are in their 40s. The number of GPs aged 50 and above remained static.
42% of responses were from GP contractors, 24% from Practice Managers, 20% salaried doctors and 9% locum GPs. A number of the GP respondents also work as clinical directors. We received responses from some practice nurses and ARRS roles.
Dr Gaurav Gupta
On behalf of Kent Local Medical Committee