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Fully qualified FTE GP workforce falls by 2% in a year

The number of fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs in England has fallen by 576 over the past year, new figures from NHS Digital have shown.

Official statistics show there were 28,257 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs (excluding registrars) in June 2019, 2% lower than June 2018 which had 28,833.

The figures also show:

  • In the last quarter, the number of FTE GPs had also fallen. In March, there were 28,697 GPs in England - a fall of 1.5% in three months.
  • The number of FTE GP partners also decreased to 18,511 – down 5.3% from last year.
  • However, the headcount of all GPs has increased by 2.7% in a year - from 43,414 to 44,570.

BMA GP committee executive committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'These statistics are a stark illustration of the workforce crisis that continues to blight general practice. In the face of high workloads, punitive pension regulations and the overly burdensome admin that comes with running a practice, it is no surprise that the number of GPs, and in particular partners, is continuing to fall. This is despite repeated pledges from the Government to boost numbers by thousands.

'GP practices are working more closely together now, and with expanded healthcare teams so that patients receive the most appropriate and timely care possible – and we hope this will go some way to alleviate some of the workload pressure placed on doctors.

'And while the number of trainees choosing family medicine is rising, crucially general practice needs to become a more attractive career for those already working within it. The Government must value the workforce, both by increasing resources and scrapping damaging pension rules that are forcing hard-working GPs to retire or reduce hours before they both want and need to.'

RCGP vice chair Professor Martin Marshall said: 'Demand for GP services is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity. Paired with falling workforce numbers, it creates a perfect storm that is leaving GPs stressed, burnt out, and leaving the profession earlier than planned – and our patients waiting much longer for an appointment than they should have to.' 

Since the last figures were published, the NHS released its interim workforce plan - named the people plan - which committed to promoting portfolio careers and a voluntary two-year fellowship for newly qualified GPs in a bid to make general practice ‘more attractive’.

The full NHS people plan will come out after the Government’s spending review and is said to outline a ‘broader strategy’ for sustainable general practice.

The recent Ipsos Mori evaluation of Babylon GP at Hand said the NHS could learn from the digital providers recruitment models, which summarises the features that attract and retain GPs.

Elsewhere in Scotland, a new audit report said the Government has a 'significant challenge' to recruit more GPs to the area.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Big this up Prof!!!!!!!!!

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  • No surprises there then! As it seems more and more are turning to locum work this will definitely be the demise of primary care as we know it as why should anyone become a partner when they can earn more and be less stressed as a locum. However the flip side is that this will bankrupt a lot of practices as employing locums is becoming more expensive than having a partner and therefore eventually locum work will dry up too. Purely health economics. if the government wants more FT Gp's' then they need to start incentivising people to do the job.

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  • Wait until the pension trap bites - GPs will not make the same mistake next year - and reduce their sessions further.

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  • Why don't we scrap the CSA? it seems to be causing a hole heap of problems restocking the GP population. RCGP needs to switch focus to more business skills that aren't taught in med school in order to make our profession sustainable.

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  • should we refer it to the falls management service?

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  • Make MRCGP optional.

    Abolish Revalidation and make Appraisal optional.

    Restrict CQC inspections to Practices where there is evidence for concern.

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  • Call me cynical but I'm beginning to suspect that my mantra "There's never been a better time to be a GP" might not actually be true.

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  • does anyone know how many GPs work full time as a partner as an actual face to face GP? The figures suggest most GPs work part time now. Do the RCGP know?

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  • Nobody wants to pay to work and get poorer.

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