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Beneath the gloss...

The annual GP workforce census released this week paints a fascinating picture of the state of the profession.

The headline figure of 1,217 GPs recruited in the past year is undeniably impressive.

It is also a testimony to how the pay rise, the subject of so much recent scrutiny and needling media coverage, has boosted the appeal of general practice. Three years ago the headcount was only inching up.

Now, with GPs finally seen to be getting the rewards they deserve, it is rising steadily.

Changing face of practice

But it is the detail of the census figures that show truly how the profession is changing.

For every four new GPs, three are women. Women now account for more than 40 per cent of GPs. Under current trends, they will be the majority within the next decade.

Around half of new GPs work part-time, taking the total number up to 27 per cent. This figure was 17 per cent six years ago.

Equally notable is the age of GPs. The number of over-55s rose by 9 per cent last year, clear evidence of doctors hanging on for their pension windfall. In contrast, the number of under-40s barely moved.

The upshot is that for all the gloss put on the headcount figure by the Government, it needs to do far more to ensure the future health of general practice.

Registrar places need to be increased, not cut. GPs need more flexible careers options, not fewer. Otherwise all of the recent progress will be undone.

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