This document summarises the findings of The Health Foundation's analysis on workforce supply and demand in general practice in England up to 2030/31. It focuses on patient care staff including GPs and general practice nurses. The Health Foundation developed three scenarios of potential workforce supply through a mix of in-house modelling and publicly available data: a scenario based on current policy, a more optimistic scenario and a pessimistic scenario.
The analysis demonstrates that in all three scenarios, the supply of GPs and general practice nurses is projected to fall short of demand. Under current policy, the NHS faces a shortfall of over 1 in 4 GP and general practice nurse posts by 2030/31. In the pessimistic scenario this increases to around 1 in 2 GP and nurse posts, raising concerns about patient safety, quality of care and equity of access. In the optimistic scenario, the GP shortfall can be substantially mitigated by 2030/31, but this would require sustained and concerted policy action to boost GP retention and integrate newer roles within multidisciplinary practice teams.
The document summarises the implications of the analysis as follows:
Implications for general practice workforce planning
- Addressing general practice workforce shortages requires comprehensive long-term planning and acknowledgement that improvement will take many years.
- Top-down targets are unlikely to be effective in addressing workforce supply-demand shortfalls. Policymakers should account for geographic and sector variation in workforce supply and demand.
- Policies need to be fully costed and funded to be implemented effectively.
- Joined-up policymaking needs to be underpinned by substantive research on the drivers of workforce supply and demand as well as rigorous projections analysis.
- Substantial gaps in accessible data about the NHS workforce should be acknowledged and mitigated.
- In all scenarios, the supply of GPs and general practice nurses is projected to fall short of demand through this decade.
- Under current policy, the NHS faces a shortfall of around 10,700 FTE GPs in 2030/31 (over 1 in 4 projected GP posts) and 6,400 FTE nurses (over 1 in 4 projected posts). In the pessimistic scenario this rises to around 20,400 FTE GPs (around 1 in 2 GP posts) and 10,100 FTE nurses (nearly 1 in 2 posts).
- This raises serious concerns around future primary care provision in terms of patient safety, the quality of care and equity of access.
- Sustained policy action targeting improved retention will be key to mitigating the GP and nurse shortfall.
- Equally, effective integration of other patient care roles in multidisciplinary teams will also be vital. Our optimistic scenario projects a lower GP shortfall of around 3,300 FTE (around 1 in 10 GP posts), assuming that successful integration of newer DPC roles helps lower GP demand by 9% by 2030/31.
- Policy choices around staff recruitment, retention, training, funding and equity in general practice have a vital role to play in addressing workforce pressures in general practice in the medium term.