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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.

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