Supply & Demand in Primary Care

Medical Technologies, improved diagnostic techniques, even better dental care have all advanced life expectancy across the UK (1) and woman should expect now to live to 83 years old. But this brings real challenges that are having impacts on primary care and highlights why this is one of the focuses of the Government as it looks into how we can all live longer but live better.

Studies show demand is up in the last 5 years anywhere from 15-23% (2) for primary care, and shows no signs of slowing down. Looking at the average number of items dispensed per prescription which has increased to 4 in England (4.5 in Scotland) shows that we are living longer with more co-morbidities and what was a killer condition eg some forms of cancer, HIV, is now a chronic management issue that falls on primary care as first point of call.

For primary care in England, the increasing workload, increased stress and issues trying to recruit clinical staff are some of the outcomes from these dynamics. The result is that fewer graduating medical students want to be GPs, 8% of GPs plan to leave this year, we lost 350 GPs (3) from Sep 2015 to June 2017, and 40% (4) of GPs think they will be unlikely to work in General Practice in 5 year’s time. The DoH has a strategy to recruit 5,000 GPs by 2020 but 3,000 of these are planned to come from Europe, and the uncertainty over Brexit is casting a dark shadow over that plan.