In making the video, the College aims to tackle media stereotypes of general practice as less stimulating and exciting than other medical careers. It hopes to mirror the success of similar recruitment initiatives employed by other professions, such as teaching, to boost numbers entering the profession.
The RCGP estimates that at least 10,000 GPs will be needed by 2020 to meet the needs of an ageing and growing population, with an increasing number of patients needing treatment for multiple and complex illnesses.
Recent initiatives including NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and a new £1bn investment in GP premises – along with pledges by the Scottish government of an extra £40m for general practice and the promise of a £10m cash injection for primary care In Wales – are re-focussing the future of patient care back to the community and the demand for GP skills and expertise has never been greater.
The new RCGP video aims to raise the profile of UK general practice and features newly qualified doctors talking about their real-life experiences of being a GP, showing the huge contribution they make to the lives of their patients and the wider NHS.
It depicts the unique and varied role that GPs have in the health service – providing ‘whole person’ and continuous care for patients throughout their lifetimes.
It highlights the diverse career opportunities available to GPs and shows the intellectual stimulation, leadership, autonomy – and exciting challenges – that GPs enjoy in everyday practice. It also talks about the variety of settings in which GPs carry out their work, including cruise ships and prisons.
Next week, the College and Health Education England will be launching a series of regional recruitment roadshows in the most under-doctored areas of the UK to promote the appeal of general practice and highlight to medical graduates the fulfilling career that it is.
Both initiatives come in the wake of a letter sent by RCGP Chair, Dr Maureen Baker, at the end of 2014 urging all trainee doctors in England to consider general practice as a specialty and outlining the many benefits and opportunities associated with being a GP.
Research by the RCGP shows that up to 10,000 family doctors are now aged 55+ and will be approaching retirement age in the next few years – but insufficient numbers of medical graduates are entering the profession to replace them.
Last year, 1,527 of the 7,341 doctors who completed foundation training chose to work in general practice, with particular shortages in the East Midlands, North West, North East of England and Yorkshire and Humber.
As well as the shortfall in recruitment to training places, the number of unfilled GP posts has gone up from 2.1% in 2010 to 7.9% in 2013.
Over the last decade, patient numbers have rapidly increased due to the UK’s ageing and growing population. More than 90% of all NHS patient contacts take place in general practice with family doctors in England now making around 372m patient consultations every year – a rise of 60m since 2009/10. This equates to 159,000 more every single day.
At the same time, funding for general practice has been falling year on year and is currently at a record low of just 8.3% of the overall NHS budget.
In response, the College and the National Association for Patient Participation have launched the Put patients first: Back general practice campaign, calling for an increase in the share of the NHS budget that general practice receives to 11% by 2017.
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said: “We hope that our video will challenge the media perception that general practice is less exciting and stimulating than secondary care.
“Reality programmes and dramas set in hospitals are always fast-paced and thrilling while programmes about being a GP are very few and far between, and mostly reinforce outdated stereotypes about GPs handing out cough medicine and referring the more difficult cases to consultants.
“This video – and the GPs who appear in it – show that nothing could be further from the truth. Being a GP is exciting, varied and challenging, as well as being the only role in the NHS that delivers care for the whole person over their lifetime.
“GPs are now performing procedures every day in our consultation rooms that a decade ago would automatically have been referred to hospital specialists.
“We hope the video will reach out to the medical students and trainee doctors who are considering the direction of their future careers and show them what a brilliant profession general practice really is.
“While it might be unusual for a medical royal college to use such measures as making a promotional video, we hope it will make a tangible impact that will translate into more family doctors, who can care for our patients in the future
She added: “After years of under-investment in general practice and the focus on hospital care, there is now a real push for more resources into general practice and to build up the GP workforce.
“We are turning the tide on funding for general practice, with pledges from politicians across the UK that it is time to reinvigorate general practice, in order to deliver high quality and cost-effective care to our patients in the community.
“The future of the NHS lies not in hospitals but in general practice. With more investment and more doctors, we can reduce waiting times for GP appointments and deliver more care for patients closer to home, where they want it most.
“I’ve been a GP for over 30 years and I still believe it is the best job in the world. I hope that after watching this video many potential GPs will feel the same.”