GPs are being made redundant in response to a rise in virtual appointments and an influx of ‘cheaper’ staff.
One practice in Surrey told its 19,000 patients that it had ‘identified a need to make some changes’ to how it operated.
Glenlyn Medical Centre, in East Molesey and Thames Ditton, claimed the move was triggered by a ‘significant increase’ in the number of patients who were requesting online consultations.
Managing director Joe Todd also said it was ‘coupled with the introduction of many new roles at the practice’, including the hiring of pharmacists and nurses.
He stated it meant the surgery was ‘working differently and more efficiently to help people get the care they need from the right healthcare professional’.
Glenlyn Medical Centre in East Molesey and Thames Ditton invited its 11 salaried GPs to apply for voluntary redundancy in December, with three taking up the offer. The 19,000-patient practice said it was now ‘working differently and more efficiently’
GP workforce data for May 2023 shows there are 27,200 fully-qualified GPs in England. This is down from 27,627 one year earlier. GP numbers peaked at 29,537 in March 2016
Glenlyn Medical Centre invited its 11 salaried GPs to apply for voluntary redundancy in December, with three taking up the offer.
No other redundancies have been made but Mr Todd did not confirm whether there would need to be future job cuts.
In an update sent to patients, Mr Todd said: ‘As we have started to work differently, we have needed to re-look at our staffing so we are aligned to deliver services in this new way.’
A Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate said the decision to let GPs leave the practice was ‘worrying’ as they are the ‘first port of call and essential decision-makers for so many local patients’.
Monica Harding said: ‘Given the immense pressure on our local hospitals it would seem that triaging and dealing with concerns at GP practices is even more essential in a smooth running health service.
‘I would like to understand in more detail what led to, and the rationale behind these redundancies and to seek reassurances, on behalf of local residents, that these changes do not result in a further deterioration of the service.’
Ms Harding pointed to the practice’s latest patient survey responses, which show that just 11 per cent find it easy to reach the surgery via the phone, compared with an average of 50 per cent across England.
Additionally, only 37 per cent of patients were offered a choice of appointment and just 59 per cent were satisfied with the consultation offered, compared with the national average of 59 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively.
Under plans introduced in 2019 to expand the workforce and provide extra capacity across general practice, surgeries across England have recruited more than 31,000 frontline staff roles.
These include physician associates (PAs) – nicknamed ‘doctors on the cheap’ – as well as pharmacy technicians, podiatrists and paramedics.
As part of plans to fix the appointments crisis, thousands of receptionists will also be trained to become ‘care navigators’ to direct patients to different practice staff.
NHS data has long shown that GPs, who are paid six figures, on average, are under huge pressure and treating a record number of people.
Family doctors have reported cramming in up to 90 appointments per day in some areas, warning that rushing patients through in conveyor belt-like scenes risks missing serious illnesses.
The BMA recommends GPs should not deliver more than 25 appointments a day to ensure safe care.
Dennis Reed of Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly Britons, said: ‘NHS England appears to be implementing a secret agenda of undermining the role of the GP and replacing them with cheaper ancillary staff.’
But Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board, which is responsible for NHS services, funding and workforce planning, told Pulse that practices in Surrey were taking forward ‘a range of improvements for patients’.
Separate figures show only 68.3 per cent of appointments were held face to face in November — down from around 80 per cent pre-pandemic. It is also the lowest figure so far this year
The graph shows the ratio of GP patients to practices since 2015, with an average of 9,755 patients per surgery in May 2023
A spokesman said: ‘Practices are already working differently due to an increase in the use of online services.
‘Surrey has some of the highest usage rates in the country, and other changes are happening nationally, including the introduction of new roles, where the NHS is bringing in professionals with very different skills, to enhance the practice team and the local offer to patients.
‘As a result of these changes, the practice has re-looked at how they operate and considered opportunities to work more efficiently, including the workforce they need moving forwards — and the changes they are making locally, reflect this.
‘We monitor access and waiting times for all our GP practices to make sure people have good access to local services and we will continue to monitor access closely to ensure people are getting the care they need, when they need it.’
Latest NHS data shows there were 31.4million GP appointments in November.
Almost half were on the same day (42.6 per cent) and a quarter (25.8 per cent) had to wait more than a week.
The data for England also found more than two thirds (67.9 per cent) of GP consultations were face to face.
In the wake of the pandemic, GP patient satisfaction has plunged to its lowest level on record.
Patients have continually expressed their frustration over access, particularly with regards to in-person appointments.
GPs say they overwhelmed due to the pressures of the rising and ageing population, a lack of government funding and a shortage of doctors.
Ministers have also silently binned a promise to hire 6,000 more GPs, which was a major part of Boris Johnson’s election-winning manifesto. Just 2,000 more family doctors have been recruited since 2019.
GP surgeries have also faced rising levels of harassment, assaults and verbal abuse targeted at staff in recent months.