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GP numbers are declining faster in areas with low-income patients

GP numbers are dwindling faster in areas of England where people earn the least money, according to official data.

Between 2008 and 2017, the number of full-time-equivalent GPs in the lowest-income areas of England reduced by 1,240, while in the most affluent areas it declined by just 397.

By headcount, GP numbers actually increased by 134 in the wealthiest areas, while declining by 511 in the poorer regions.

The data, unveiled by primary care minister Steve Brine in response to a written question from the chair of the work and pensions select committee, saw the population of England divided into five equal categories from most to least deprived.

In all quintiles, the number of FTE GPs increased up until 2014, when the trend turned downwards.

The news comes as the number of full-time-equivalent GPs in England as a whole has decreased by more than 1,000 since 2015, when health secretary Jeremy Hunt made a pledge to boost numbers by 5,000 in five years.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The difficulties of recruiting to areas of deprivation, particularly those away from large cities, has been compounded by the historical lack of investment in infrastructure, such as premises, making it harder to deliver good quality care and therefore it is a less attractive option for younger GPs.'

Mr Hunt has previously acknowledged the issue with the launch of an incentives scheme for medical graduates to train as GPs in areas with recruitment problems.

This year, 265 trainees will be granted a £20,000 'golden hello' payment following an expansion of the scheme.

But Dr Vautrey said: ‘Whilst recruitment incentives, which have been in place in a small number of hard-to-recruit areas for the last couple of years, can help, these are only short-term fixes and do not tackle the root cause of the problems.

‘This requires sustained significant investment, enabling all practices to recruit sufficient GPs and other staff that will engender meaningful change.’

GP workforce by income quintile

England, full-time equivalent GP numbers (excluding registrars, retainers and locums):

Quintile by income (low to high)200820142017
1 (most deprived area) 7,487 8,076 6,247
2 7,386 7,821 6,200
3 6,722 7,097 5,862
4 5,442 5,822 4,870
5 (most affluent area) 3,615 3,811 3,218

Source: Hansard

Readers' comments (9)

  • To me, it just looks like the number of patients/ GP in affluent areas is already maxed out, therefore when more pressure is applied to the system, the area most likely to lose GPs is the area with the fewest number of patients/GP.

    Is it really true that patients in deprived areas need TWICE as much primary care as patients in rich areas?

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  • IT IS HARDER WORK IN DEPRIVED AREAS. INSTEAD OF GETTING A "THANK YOU", WE GET A POLITICAL "KNUCKLE SANDWICH" FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

    LOOK, NOBODY WANTS TO BE A GP AND LEAST OF ALL IN A DEPRIVED AREA.

    THE RESPONSE IS ALWAYS "IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT THEN F*** OFF" RATHER THAN WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN i.e A GROVELLING THANK YOU FOR DOING WHAT OTHERS HAVE TURNED THEIR NOSE UP AT AND SOME MATCHING INVESTMENT.

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  • Time to pride open the purse strings.

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  • Suspend Appraisal and Revalidation in deprivedcareas and watch the decline level out.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Yes the figures show deprived areas had more than twice as many GPs to start with. Doesn’t really fit with the ‘deprived areas can’t recruit’ narrative that. I’m sure they do need more Drs but it looks like they already have.

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  • GP numbers are declining everywhere.Thats the important statistic.It a bum deal where ever you are.

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  • 'Is it really true that patients in deprived areas need TWICE as much primary care as patients in rich areas?'

    No not true. They probably need about FIVE times more primary care. (most affluent vs least affluent)

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  • Mr Hunt, in deprived areas as in Medway, half the Carr Hill Formula is taken into account with Deprivation factors completely ignored and payment made only for weighted list sizes. The Deprivation payment totals are listed on Open Exeter statements but these are 'not understood' by NHSE who claim that NHS Digital has confirmed that these are correct.
    On the other hand, NHS Digital refuses to talk to GPs but under FOI request denies having any information regarding GP Payments !!! Do we have only liars employed at the top from NHSE/ CCGs and NHS Digital - is that prime criteria for selection of this elite?

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  • Given the choice, those GPs don't want to live in those areas or send their kids to school in those areas either. I bet there are shortages of accoutants, lawyers, vets etc too. Basically the government needs to invest in these areas so they are decent and prosperous for everyone, then professionals will move in too and work there.

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