As the Prime Minister and Health Secretary were setting out ambitious plans to recruit thousands of GPs and deliver a seven-day general practice, it is surely time for a reality check.

The number of GPs in Oxfordshire retiring or contemplating retiring is cause for concern, but coupled with the lack of GPs to replace them, the situation becomes alarming.

The Summertown GP Dr Matthew Cheetham, gave a frank, no nonsense appraisal on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, leaving listeners to wonder whether the Health Secretary is aware of the unfilled GP vacancy figures and the unfilled places on GP training schemes.

The Oxford Times, certainly had little joy, when we tried to obtain the GP vacancy figures for Oxfordshire from NHS England.

A survey conducted by Oxfordshire GPs last year, however left no one in doubt about the imminent crisis in general practice, with a staggering 50 per cent of GPs indicating that they will either retire, or take a career break within the next five years. Now Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has wisely decided to oversee a county-wide survey which should deliver valuable data to reveal what is really lying ahead.

OCCG chairman, Dr Joe McManners, tells us that as well as revealing where the gaps are going to be, it could help to shape policies to boost the retention of GPs. The OCCG’s role, however, can only be limited. The fundamental causes of the exodus – the pressures of long hours, growing workload, time-consuming administrative tasks, rising patient numbers – are in reality beyond its control.

The fact that the situation has reached an alarming point even in a county as affluent, comparatively healthy and, let’s face it, a pleasant place to live, should be of particular concern to the MP for Witney. Funding, of course, is a major issue. But the problem of why general practice is no longer viewed as a rewarding profession is equally significant and is one that might prove even more difficult to address. There now needs to be immediate focus on how to retain the experienced GPs that we have, though in many cases it is already too late.