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GP full-time workforce numbers dropped last year

Almost 100 fewer full-time equivalent GPs in England in past year

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The number of full-time equivalent GPs working in England last year fell by almost 100, according to new statistics released today by NHS Digital.

The figures show the full-time equivalent number dropped by 96* (0.3%) from 34,592 in September 2015 to 34,495 in September 2016.

Over the same period, the headcount decreased by 12 from 41,877 to 41,865.

Although this represented a small decline, it is exactly the reverse trend that the government is keen on under its plans in the General Practice Forward View to have 5,000 more GPs in place by 2020.

NHS Digital said that in England, 57% of GPs were partners (described as “providers”), while 26% were salaried GPs, 13% were registrars and 4% were locums.

However, the trend may be starting to change as the data showed that between April 2016 to September 2016, a total headcount of 3,999 GPs joined general practice – the working equivalent of 2,985 full-time equivalents.

Over the same six months, a headcount of 3,347 GPs left general practice, meaning there was an increase of 652 GPs compared to the period of October 2015 to March 2016.

Following publication of the figures, the BMA said the crisis facing general practice was evident.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee deputy chair, said: “GP practices across England are struggling to provide enough appointments because they do not have the GPs to see the sheer number of patients coming through the surgery door.

“This disastrous situation makes it all the more important that NHS England and the government step up the speed of delivery of their commitments to invest in general practice and expand the wider workforce.”

Dr Vautrey told OnMedica: “It shows that the crisis is getting worse rather than better. We have real concerns that the commitment that has been made to find 5,000 new GPs is clearly not delivering yet. We need to see a really big concerted effort from both government and NHS England to deliver on the promises they made with the GP Forward View.

“Getting the extra 5,000 GPs by 2020 is all the less likely if they [government] continue to make statements as the Prime Minister did recently which were to scapegoat and blame GPs for the crisis in the NHS, which was completely unfounded and unjustified.

“It’s behooven on everybody in government to talk up the value of GPs and the importance of general practice and make sure there is tangible delivery so that GPs can see that delivery, and aspiring doctors can also see evidence of the commitment of the government to deliver on their promises. It’s only when they see that, will they start to make general practice a career choice in the future.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “These figures are very disappointing to say the least, and emphasise just how stark things are in general practice, but sadly they will come as no surprise to our hard-working GPs and practice teams who are coping with the impact of this on a daily basis.

“We are feeling the effects of this on the ground as huge numbers of practices struggle to recruit GPs to fill vacancies, and this is now having a real human impact on our entire practice teams and our patients. Everything that can be done must be done to reverse this trend.”

* FTE figures have been rounded to nearest whole number.

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