New contract setback for GP numbers
Full-time GP numbers fell during the GMS contract
crisis, Government statistics have revealed.
The figures released last week showed a drop of 19 whole-time equivalent GPs and unrestricted principals in England between March and June this year the period covering the Carr-Hill formula debacle and ballot delay. The drop reversed a slight upward trend in the past year.
GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman denied problems with the contract had caused the fall, but said the figures were 'no surprise'. He said: 'We have been telling the Department of Health for 20 years what has gone wrong. We are now in a real workforce crisis.'
Despite the drop in whole-time equivalent GPs, the department insisted it is on course to meet its NHS Plan target to recruit 2,000 new GPs by March next year.
Under its headcount measure which does not account for part-time status and includes restricted principals and GP assistants GP numbers increased by 293 to 30,002.
Health minister John Hutton said the rise brought the total number of GPs recruited since 1999 to 1,530.
Dr Maureen Baker, co-chair of the joint RCGP/GPC workforce committee, said the headcount measure was 'restricted' and did not reveal the true extent of the workforce crisis. She added: 'Headcount numbers are not as useful as whole-time equivalents, and on that basis we are still in a lot of trouble.'
Whole-time equivalent GP numbers have increased by 297 since 1999.
A department spokeswoman said it used headcounts to reflect 'wider labour market trends towards flexible and part-time working and portfolio careers'.
LMCs said GPs were finding it impossible to recruit and were closing their lists.