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NHS staff headcount rises, but GP numbers fall

Latest workforce figures show how far the government is from making good on its promise of 5,000 more GPs, says BMA

Caroline White

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The number of full time (FTE) staff working for the NHS in England has risen by 2.2% (26,000) since 2015, but the number of GPs has fallen show data released today by NHS Digital.

The figures highlight just how far the government is from making good on its promise to boost the GP headcount by 5,000, says the BMA.

The data show that as of 30 September 2016, there were 1.20 million FTE staff working for the NHS in England in hospital and community health service trusts, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NHS support organisations, central bodies and general practice, compared to 1.17 million at the same time point in 2015.

Professionally qualified clinical staff made up 612,000 of this total, representing an increase of 1.6% (9,460) since 2015.

There were 1.04 million staff working for NHS trusts and CCGs compared to 1.01 million at the same point in 2015, comprising 51,600 FTE doctors in training, an increase of 0.5% (267) since 2015, and 44,300 FTE consultants, an increase of 3.3% (1,430) since 2015.

The number of nurses and health visitors, excluding GP practice nurses, stood at 284,000 FTE, an increase of 1.0% (2,810) since 2015.

There were 21,000 FTE midwives, representing an increase of 0.5% (104) since 2015 and 309,000 FTE staff who provide support to clinical staff, an increase of 3.2% (9,700) since 2015.

The proportion of NHS infrastructure support staff rose by 2.3% to 3,640 in 2016.

Managers made up 21,000 of this goup, an increase of 3.4% (696) on 2015, while senior managers stood at 9,610 FTE, an increase of 3.7% (347) on 2015.

General practice workforce figures have been collected directly from GP practices rather than from census collections, which has increased the accuracy of the data.

The figures show that as of 30 September 2016 there were 34,500 FTE GPs, representing a fall of 0.3% (96) on September 2015.

But the number of nurses in general practices rose by 2.8% (429) over the same time period to 15,800, while the number of direct patient care and admin staff rose by 3.4% (2,470) to 75,300.

“These figures underline just how far we are from meeting the government’s own target of recruiting and retaining more GPs as we near the one year anniversary of the GP Forward View in England. Despite the constant promises from ministers that the GP workforce would be increased by 5,000, the number of full time GPs has fallen once again while the overall number has stagnated,” commented Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA Education, Training and Workforce GP lead.

“While there have been encouraging increases in [the number of] other healthcare professionals in general practice, what we really need are GPs who can deliver more appointments and other front line services to meet rising patient demand,” he insisted.

Uncertainties around Brexit weren’t helping, he suggested. “The NHS is at breaking point and it is not acceptable for this recruitment and retention crisis to be allowed to get worse. It is time for the government to act urgently to implement the GP Forward View with its pledge to deliver a long-term, sustainable plan for a well-resourced and appropriately staffed general practice,” he demanded.

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