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GP numbers working in the NHS are falling

523 fewer GPs full-time equivalents from March to June

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 23 August 2018

The number of GPs working in NHS primary care in England has fallen again in the past year, according to figures released today by NHS Digital.

Doctors leaders have warned that the figures will be “demoralising and distressing” for working GPs who were already stretched with workload.

The latest Healthcare Workforce Statistics report shows that in primary care, the number of doctors working in general practices fell by 235 to 33,686 full-time equivalents (FTEs) in 2018 from 33,921 FTEs in 2017 while the number of nurses in general practices increased by 2.3% to 15,889 FTEs in 2018 from 15,528 FTEs in 2017.

The pattern was worse when comparing half-yearly periods, as the figures showed there was drop of 405 FTE GPs from 34,091 in September 2017 to 33,686 in March 2018.

Additional information provided in the General and Personal Medical Services, England, March 2018 final and June 2018 provisional Experimental Statistics, also published today, showed there were 33,163 FTE GPs in June of this year – a drop of 523 from 33,686 in March 2018.

The trend is in sharp contrast to the one hoped for by the government, which set a target in September 2015 to recruit an extra 5,000 full-time GPs by 2021.

According to the Healthcare Workforce Statistics report, overall, the total number of full-time equivalents employed by the NHS increased by 19,791 (1.6%) between March 2017 and March 2018.

NHS Digital said a total of 1,227,375 FTEs were employed by the health service across NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups, NHS support organisations and central bodies in England as well as in general practice.

The figures showed that, as of 31 March 2018, there was a total of 143,033 FTE hospital and community health services (HCHS) and general practice doctors employed in the NHS – up from 140,351 on the previous year.

The number of FTE nurses and health visitors (excluding practice nurses) fell by 148 to 285,745 between 2018 and 2017 while the number of FTE midwives increased from 21,597 to 21,790.

In addition, the figures showed that the NHS employed 10,233 FTE senior managers – a rise from 9,974 in 2017, as well as employing 22,355 FTE managers, which was an increase of 1,216 on 2017.

Responding to the figures, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Royal College of General Practitioners chair, said: “Today’s figures will be demoralising and distressing for GPs and our teams across the country who are striving to deliver care to over a million patients a day, but without the resources or workforce to do so in a way that is safe for patients, or for themselves.

“Despite great efforts to recruit more doctors to general practice – and we do have more GPs in training than ever before – something clearly is not working, and this must be addressed.”

GPs were routinely working 12-hour days in clinic, with as many as 60 patient contacts a day and dealing with large amounts of administrative work, she added.

“The government must focus its efforts on addressing the growing workload in general practice, and making a more sustainable place to work, so that we can retain our existing workforce – as well as continuing efforts to recruiting new GPs, and making it easier for previous ones to return to the profession.”

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