With the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warning that general practice faces a ‘mass exodus’ of doctors over the next five years, with almost 19,000 out of 45,000 GPs and trainees set to quit, a Cornish community has taken recruitment matters into its own hands – and voices.

In an innovative, yet increasingly desperate, attempt to replace a much-loved retiring GP within two weeks, the community of Lostwithiel, Cornwall, has created their own recruitment song and pop video to attract new doctors to their town’s award-winning medical practice.

The song and video, which aims to persuade GPs to relocate and make a long-term commitment to the enthusiastic and close-knit 5,000 strong community, are being released on social media on Valentine’s Day 2023 –– a loving call from a loving community to loving doctors.

The Lostwithiel Needs a Doctor crusade was initiated by Dr Justin Hendriksz, the current remaining practice partner, who felt a more creative approach was needed to find newly trained or existing GPs to care for the community, as much as the community of Lostwithiel cares about its medical provision.

With a pressing two-week deadline, Hendriksz approached Really Lovely Projects, a local arts-led creative CIC, to create a standout campaign that would reach the nation of doctors,  but importantly touch the hearts of those professionals.  The resultant campaign sings out to those with a vocation for General Practice, ready for the joys of a life in Cornwall, and showcases the healthy, connected and fabulously creative community, that the hoped-for new GPs would be joining.

The song, and the campaign also seeks to show that the community is understanding about the stresses and strains that GPs are facing, whilst highlighting the natural beauty and cultural backdrop of the small, riverside town in South East Cornwall.  

Dr Hendriksz says, “Despite the beauty of rural Cornwall and the lively, positive community of Lostwithiel, as a medical practice we have struggled to recruit new GPs through the usual route of adverts in all of the relevant medical publications. We’re all very aware of the alarming number of GPs leaving the sector, so we know we’re not the only practice to be finding it such a challenge to find the right incoming doctors.  We’re very proud of our historical work and service to our local Lostwithiel community and we really need to find our medical successors to take on our mission of treating patients with the “right person, in the right place, at the right time.’”

Dr Hendriksz continues, “Of course I’m biased, but there really is nowhere better to be a GP, and myself and my outgoing team have always felt beyond valued and appreciated in this very special community.  The whole community has got behind this idea and I sincerely hope the campaign pop song and video reaches the right people to come and find their ultimate job and home right here in Lostwithiel.”

Dr Hendriksz’s colleague, Dr William Howe, who will be retiring at the end of March, said “Lostwithiel is a fantastic community and I have loved my time serving the people of the town. I have worked here for over 30 years and it has been a wonderful area to raise a family. The medical practice has a great team and whoever is able to fill the new position will be extremely lucky, despite the current shared challenges in the profession at large.”

Norman Pendray, a member of the local community, farmer and brass band leader, who took part in the pop song video, says, “There are many reasons why Lostwithiel Medical Practice is the top one in Cornwall, not least because you can get same day appointments with sympathetic and skilled staff. We are extremely fortunate to have such great service and look forward to welcoming Dr Howe’s replacement, and making them very much at home in our special Cornish community.”

In June 2022, the RCGP warned that UK general practice faces a ‘mass exodus’ of doctors over the next five years with almost 19,000 GPs and trainees set to quit unless factors behind the workforce and workload crisis are tackled urgently. Polling by the college as part of a campaign to make NHS GP services sustainable for the future found that 42% of 1,262 GPs and trainees who took part said they were likely to quit the profession in the next five years.

A workforce exodus on this scale would strip the health service of nearly 19,000 of the roughly 45,000 headcount GPs and GP trainees currently working in general practice.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall warned that general practice was a profession in crisis – with the intensity and complexity of GP workload rising as the workforce continues to shrink.

According to the BMA, ‘As of December 2022 (latest data) we actually now have the equivalent of 1,990 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs compared to the September 2015 baseline.”

Also in June 2022, a House of Commons Inquiry [House of Commons Report] identified that there were already  717 fewer full-time equivalent fully qualified GPs between March 2019 and March 2022. This deficit is affecting continuity of care, patient access to services and unsustainable workloads for GPs. Given the extraordinary quality of care at the Lostwithiel Practice, the medical team and wider community have not been prepared to accept any reduction in services, hence their campaign.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, explained why there is an increased shortage of GPs.  ‘We know that, last year, 55% of doctors retiring were taking voluntary early retirement. That is because the pension taxation situation makes it as if they were paying to work.