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Shortage of GPs will never end, health experts say

Pharmacists, physiotherapists and other staff will have to fill widening gap, say thinktanks

Patients will have to get used to seeing a pharmacist or physiotherapist instead of a family doctor because the NHS will never overcome its chronic lack of GPs, health experts say.

The NHS in England will no longer be able to care properly for patients without a major shake-up of GP services, the country’s three main health thinktanks argue in a report published on Thursday.

The one in five people who attend a GP surgery because of back pain and similar issues will increasingly have to be treated by a physiotherapist, and pharmacists will issue repeat prescriptions and conduct medication reviews, as part of a drive to relieve the pressure on overworked GPs.

The difficulties of recruiting enough medical graduates to train as GPs and retaining enough experienced family doctors mean the shortfall will almost triple from 2,500 to 7,000 by 2023-24, the thinktanks’ analysis predicts.

That widening gap means the NHS will need to hire 6,000 more physiotherapists and 3,000 more pharmacists to work in GP practices.

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