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Full-time GP numbers down by over 500 in just three months

The GP workforce situation has worsened further, as full-time equivalent GP numbers have dropped by 523 since March.

Provisional GP workforce data for June 2018 showed there were 33,163 FTE GPs in England, down from a final figure of 33,686 for March.

Also between March and June, total headcount numbers declined by 488, from 41,848 to 41,360.

The new NHS Digital data comes as Pulse reported in May that the NHS has lost 1,000 GPs since former health secretary Jeremy Hunt set out his target to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs between 2015 and 2020.

However, when excluding registrars, retainers and locums, the FTE GP workforce figure was just 27,773 according to the finalised figures for March.

Of these, nearly a quarter (23%) were over 55, while the female to male ratio stood at 53.9% to 45.9%.

According to the NHS Digital report, 1,167 GPs excluding locums left a GP practice between January and March this year, while just 939 joined (228 fewer). The FTE figures were 864 leaving and 589 joining (275 fewer).

The report revealed better news for the general practice nurse workforce. Between January and March, 703 nurses (475 FTE) joined GP practices, while 678 (434 FTE) left.

FTE general practice nurse numbers for March (final) stood at 15,889 and had increased to 15,925 according to the June provisional data.

However, despite this, the overall number of direct patient care staff declined in the time period - from 12,013 FTE staff in March to 11,980 FTE staff in June.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The continued fall in the number of GPs is causing major problems around the country as practices find it harder and harder to meet the growing needs of their patients.

'It leaves patients waiting too long for appointments and GPs and their practice team members under increasing stress as they do their best to cope. The new secretary of state for health and social care in England made workforce his top priority, and these figures show that its work to recruit and retain GPs that must be addressed urgently.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard 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.'

She said this comes as GPs are 'routinely working 12-hour days in clinic, making upwards of 60 patient contacts a day, and dealing with huge amounts of administrative work'.

'Demand is escalating exponentially, both in volume and complexity, and many practices are already struggling to fill vacancies – it is not safe, and it is causing GPs to burn out, driving them out of the profession, and it means our patients are having to wait longer and longer for appointments,' she added. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'We recognise the invaluable contribution of GPs and we are determined to build a strong workforce - that’s why we are investing an extra £2.4bn a year into general practice by 2021, with record number of doctors in training and NHS England planning to recruit an extra 2,000 overseas doctors.'

GP numbers in decline

 June 2017March 2018 (final)June 2018 (provisional)Annual percentage change
All GPs, headcount 41,564 41,848 41,360 -0.5  
All GPs, FTE 33,560 33,686 33,163 -1.2  
GPs excluding registrars, retainers and locums, headcount 34,191 34,435 34,118 -0.2  
GPs excluding registrars, retainers and locums, FTE 27,858 27,773 27,396 -1.7  

Source: NHS Digital


Readers' comments (27)

  • David Banner

    The drip has become a trickle. Soon it will be a flood. Only then will the country wake up.

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) Please grow up!
    It was Agent Hunt who said 5000 more GPs by 2020. It was then , this is now . Robocop( or -cock) never said 5000 more GPs up to now . In fact , with his obsession with technology, he may well say 5000 more AI-smartphone-GP providers instead .
    (2)’’.......and we do have more GPs in training than ever before – something clearly is not working, and this must be addressed.'’
    While politicians must take the most of the blame , can you tell us exactly what is this ‘something’ , Helen ? Obviously, what about these young trainees doctors who failed the MRCGP examination? I think it is time to turn to a different assessment process rather than relying on a controversial and inflexible ( as well as expensive) examination to pass more of our youngsters to practise family medicine.
    (3) Jaimie , the last paragraph of this article should be simplified by ‘ The Ministry of Truth responded to Pulse with the pre-recorded and repeated message through artificial intelligence.’

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  • AlanAlmond

    Isn’t this article actually about badgers
    Might just as well be, the government is working hard on acceptable ways of exterminating them just like GPs

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  • doctordog.

    we're no longer valued, in particular not financially.
    This is what will make me go early.

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  • As we all know totally and utterly predictable and now getting towards the inevitably dangerous end game, both to staff and the public who are on the whole totally ignorant of what is going to hit them! As I have said previously Panorama should be running with this and getting the guilty parties to at least be made publicly uncomfortable, The GMC (Protecting Patients...etc) should be jumping up and down about this and demanding safe staffing at the very least instead of shooting the beleaguered foot-soldier. This country is going to the dogs on so many fronts prisons/schools/social services etc all through funding issues and all we get from Politicians is the usual nonsense of "we are putting an extra few millions into the pot!" One of the biggest cancers affecting all the public services is litigation and the fear of it, why this cannot be addressed beats me. As previous have mentioned, the regulators/CQC etc have to start having a good look at themselves as it is all very well having shiny charts saying how many staff have completed their fire evacuation training when by their efforts surgeries are closing due to the extra hassle! Seems trivial but the cumulative efforts of the regulators have been far from beneficial.
    No one entity will even acknowledge this but we all know it to be true and the sad thing is that there is such a waste of knowledge and skill plus unmeasurable quality being totally squandered. Anyone who thinks the current free for all is sustainable is deluded, its obvious the Politicians cannot do their job but before co-payments/insurance etc becomes necessary, at least let the public see the reality of the situation and not postpone it through the shocking abuse of the NHS staff.

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  • Totally agree Cameron

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  • You are not going to get more GPs by changing the exams. You are only going to get more abused GPs leaving.

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  • I agree with everything said above.
    Politics have ruined the NHS.
    With regards to the CQC, I once said that the inspection are mockery and put huge pressure in the GP surgeries in time effort and mental harassment.

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  • "There's never been a better time to be a GP". I wish all the nay-sayers would remember this.

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  • It is true that more GPs are being churned out but remember they are more than likely to 1. Be Female-so not replacing like for like WTE as wont work FT 2. Be young males who again don’t want to work FT and end up like us doing 12 hour days 3. Be offered ‘first five’ Carew schemes whereby they work 1/2 a week at most doing GP and 1/ a week in leadership roles 4. Become a locum 5. Just sod off
    Like is not replacing like
    The alternative workforce of ANPs, paramedics, clinical pharmacists are good but need supervision and governance which takes time from the GP partner and using them puts extra strain on secondary care as they are more risk adverse
    At the same time:
    Patients are increasingly demanding and less likely to look to their lifestyle to improve their health and just want a quick fix
    The elderly baby boomers want to ‘live forever’
    Meanwhile rough sleepers have little or no healthcare
    There is growing demand and gross inequality
    The leaders of our system need to have an honest conversation with the public about what is affordable and let us do our job seeing patients who genuinely need us

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