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GP numbers decrease by more than 1,000 over past year

The number of full-time equivalent GPs in England decreased by 1,200 from September 2016 to September 2017, official figures have revealed. 

The official NHS Digital statistics also revealed that the total number of GPs decreased by 541 over the same period.

They also show a decrease of 1,300 FTE GPs since September 2015 – when the Government set its target to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, meaning ministers have gone backwards in their attempts to reach the figure.

The target was announced in June 2015, as part of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ’new deal’, with a pledge to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 FTE GPs by 2020.

However, FTE GP numbers have been constantly falling ever since, with the Government now having to find 6,300 more GPs by 2020 to meet its target.

NHS England announced earlier in the year that it is looking to recruit 3,000 GPs from overseas in a bid to help reach the target – despite Mr Hunt’s original aim specifying these extra GPs would be ’trained and retained’ by the NHS.

The figures also reveal that the NHS has lost 1,600 GPs since the release of the GP Forward View in April 2016, which was designed to boost recruitment.

The plans developed by NHS England involved an uplift in total GP funding of £2.4bn a year by 2020, and a separate package of £500m to implement immediate measures to support general practice.

This included measures to incentivise GPs to move to the areas hardest hit by the recruitment crisis, to incentivise GPs to stay in practice if they were considering leaving, and to smooth the process to re-enter UK general practice.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, the BMA GP Committee’s lead on workforce issues, said: ’The BMA has successfully lobbied the Government to invest more in general practice, with £500 million of recurrent, extra funding guaranteed in talks earlier this year to help alleviate the pressures on overstretched GP services.

‘But general practice still faces a stark workforce crisis with too many GPs retiring early and too few entering the profession, leaving many GP practices struggling, despite their best efforts, to provide enough appointments to patients. This latest fall in GP numbers demonstrates that the Government needs to work with organisations like the BMA to ensure we have a coherent workforce plan that gives GP services the capacity to meet rising levels of patient demand.’

 September 2015March 2016September 2016December 2016March 2017June 2017September 2017 - provisional
All practitioners 34,592 34,914 34,495 34,126 33,921 33,560 33,302
GP providers 21,937 21,597 21,163 20,835 20,702 20,499 20,234
Salaried/other GPs 7,292 7,436 7,295 7,300 7,390 7,359 7,603
GP registrars 4,729 5,114 5,273 5,259 4,799 4,647 4,346
GP retainers 67 78 72 69 81 84 90
GP locums 567 690 692 663 949 970 1,029

Related images

  • female gp with patient 3x2

Readers' comments (38)

  • I wonder whay kind of 'things often get worse before they get better' pish Jeremy and the Selfservatives are going to come out with.

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  • I think we should take guesses at which comment will be used to try and hide the car crash that is General Practice recruitment.
    1 Things always get worse before they get better. or2 Early days our policies will work in the fullness of time. or 3 The total numbers are up(Short session part timers.) or some other spin on the data or 4 Oh ....t looks like we have a real problem and may lose NHS base primary care very soon.

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  • You can minus another one from that overall figure.

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  • ...one more going...going...

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  • The biggest problem the NHS faces is " no one wants to be one anymore" ; be it nurses, midwives, GPS or A&E dr. Med school places now go to clearing . Not sure which bit of this Mr Hunt doesn't understand . No staff: No service . You have broken us and it irreparably. The NHS isn't about numbers it is about people.

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  • Nhsfatcat

    2,388,000 patients would be served by the 1194 wt equivalents that are now not practicing. In the UK where 40billion and big numbers are thrown about everyday, what’s a few thousand GPs? Not with bothering about -meh.

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  • "This latest fall in GP numbers demonstrates that the government needs to work with organisations like the BMA to ensure we have a coherent workforce plan that gives GP services the capacity to meet rising levels of patient demand."

    Both the government and The BMA have no idea, or wilfully choose to take note of what grassroots GPs need in order to function. Both are significantly out of touch!

    Oh and add another to the diminishing list in 2018.....

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  • The NHS is about people not about shibeny hospitals scanners and apps. it about the people satff and patient end off.Lose sight of this as they have and the damage will take a generation to fix.

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  • Dear Mr Hunt,
    Re-instating Seniority payments, along with issuing an extremely grovelling apology for removing them, might be an idea worth considering.

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  • AlanAlmond

    You can add another to the numbers ...I’m going in January
    I’m not retiring, I’m leaving. I’ve got plenty of years work left to give but it won’t be with the NHS thanks very much.

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  • Are we now starting to see the snowball effect? How long has NHS general practice got left?

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  • I'll be gone by Feb
    Leaving early too
    things that would have stopped me
    - limit to patients seen with overflow hubs
    -reduce enhanced hoops and add to basic practice income
    -Retain seniority
    -Run a separate service to cover nursing homes
    - dedicated community visiting service - these patients have different needs and need proper continuity by a community team
    -Appraisal 3 yearly like nurses
    - remove vindictive online trip advisor type ratings
    and so on
    I really hope the BMA and RCGP do something because I feel they are just as culpable for this sorry state we are in

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  • Go back and look at the chart in the GPFV. The numbers keep getting re-based. The starting point for the 5,000 additional GPs in the GPFV was over 35,000 FTE GPs.

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  • Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?

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  • Tip of the iceberg i think,aged 53 very soon and most of my peers like myself will go aged 54 or 55

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  • I'm going next June

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  • Tom Caldwell

    GPFV is going swimmingly then!

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  • National Hopeless Service

    This will be all over the front page of the newspapers tomorrow so the general public will know and understand our plight. Unless of course Mary Berry gets spotted wearing her blouse inside out and we get demoted to the bin.

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  • So tell me something that hasn’t been obvious for a long time despite government spin. I’m sorry for the rest of you left in the system but I finally quit a few months ago after 42 years full time in the NHS. I think that I’ve served my penance but feel guilty to leave the rest of you in the lurch although I wouldn’t like to be starting out now and felt that I experienced the best years of the NHS. Au revoir my friends and past colleagues.

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  • and the answer in NI is...............get retiring GPs back to prop up a failing system............this is not fair or right! We are in crisis mode and nobody seems to care, at least in GB you have governments of a sort who put up the pretence of listening and caring, in Northern Ireland we don't even have a quantum of solace in that sort of charade cause we ain't got a government here let alone a health minister for the past 10 months

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  • Bottom line is they need to pay more, a massive amount more. This is the argument the bankers used to get the 'best talent' and it worked for them. Take home pay needs to rise by around 50% to attract more GPs and get the system up and running again. The alternative, slow decline and large swathes of the population lacking basic medical services, doesn't bare thinking about.

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  • These figures won't surprise anyone who works at the coal face of General Practice and that is because the higher powers (DoH, NHSE), despite their propaganda and spin, have in reality done the square root of f**k all to improve the working conditions in primary care so people ultimately vote with their feet and leave.

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  • The figures are probably worse than even these number reveal. The largest fall is in GP providers numbers. Without any disrespect to locums and salaried doctors (who quite rightly insist on appropriate working hours), providers tend to work the longest hours.

    1000 f/t GP partners converting to 1000 salaried doctors probably is the equivalent of losing 10000-20000 hours/ week or maybe 350 full time doctors.

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  • You really need to be Superman to do this more than 50 hours. I cannot, but I love Medicine so I do a few hours a week. But, in spite of the complete horror that I find GP land to be, Wales has got MORE trainees. So, I really do not know what is truly happening.

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  • The success story of this is quite simple. Locum numbers have increased by just under 50% in the last year. 692 to 1029. Whereas in the previous year sept 15 to 16 they increased only 20% from 567 to 692. This looks like it will take-off. Hazard a guess at where they'll be in 12months, 2000?

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  • @Coalface GP
    'NI hasn't got a government or health minister.'
    Neither has England!

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  • Invest in NHS or loose NHS.

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  • seniority payment stopped
    overwork
    poor support
    high taxation
    poor morale
    Jeremy Hunt !!
    who is accountable? labour, Tories high demand pay erosion, lack of market forces
    GPs need a new fair sustainable contract that is NOT open ended
    I have left the BMA and RCGP as they take my money but don't help us in crisis
    overregulation
    poor respect for one of the hardest jobs in the country (albeit very rewarding if we are not worked to death)
    Politicians, wake up shape up and start treating the profession with the respect it deserves so we can deliver a safe effective service with appropriate rewards. This may cost a few billion a year for the next 5-10 years

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    Sad truth is that male full time partners are being lost, and replaced by new GPs coming out - who are wanting to work part time at best, or sessional work or go abraod.

    1 out is not being replaced by 1 in -actually 1 out needs around 2 in to replace the number of hours worked!

    Please don't shoot me - but with predominantly female GP trainees wanting a work life, and family balance, you are never going to get 1 out/1 in.

    So those 5000+ new GP and replacing the additional losses - actually needs closer to 10000 new GPs!

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  • I dont think pay is the only problem.
    The normal GP day damages health, and most doctors value health above all else.
    Any intelligent person must see that it is impossible to treat our patients properly within the timescale we have with them. When I started out as a GP we didn't /couldnt try to treat patients to the extent we are expected to now- we couldn't get the tests we do now, if we could the results would take too long to come, many of the treatments didn't exist. So these were referred to the hospital.The only choice we had to make was: 'surgical' or 'medical'.Now our job is so much more complex, patient expectation so much higher. It could be more interesting and rewarding, but our stupid union, combined with the expectation of the RCGP. haven't insisted on increasing our time and resource with each increase in our work scope and quantity, with the result that our job is quite simply impossible. This, I believe, is the main reason no one wants to do it any more.
    I do also agree that the pay is derisory for our skill. Surely people must realise that our work is not just the time actually seeing patients, but the studying, the time considering letters and results, liasing with other professionals .When this is actually taken into consideration, the hourly rate is not good for someone with our skill .

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  • Oh Joe...

    I am 44 - and I want a work life balance too!

    To suggest that the problem with workforce numbers is because of women wanting part time work is naive and distracts from having a constructive discussion about the real issues. Maybe it is because how demanding and unrewarding the job has become? The proportion of women at medical school has been 50% for years now.

    This is NOT a gender issue.

    David

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  • NHS workforce planning is not GP's nor the BMA's problem.

    A half-competent Union would exploit the shortage to our benefit and not collude with the NHS to continue the abuse.

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  • I agree with David Evans. This is not a gender issue. I am a male GP who has dropped from 8 to 6 sessions. But the amount of hours I do over my three is what some other sectors might consider close to full time. The job is incredibly stressful, tiring and demanding. I would prefer to be at work for more days a week, but shorter days so I might actually be able to see my kids that day. This is what we need to focus on. Make the days shorter and more enjoyable we when we are at work, we don’t dread going.

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  • GPs are human beings. Most of them start medicine with an aptitude for science and maths and the knowledge that they are in the top two percent of the population academically. So what does the average medical student want in a career? Intellectual Challenge, job satisfaction, good remuneration, respect, a degree of professional autonomy, job stability? All of the above I suspect. As GPs we recognise that if you put excessive strain on any system it will break. Many of us have obsessional tendencies and try to be perfect in every possible way. When we can no longer conform to our own expectations of how we practise we break.

    Too many GPs are realising that they cannot continue in the present system as it is, and as each GP leaves the remainder are put under more pressure. I was in a Practice this morning and my overriding impression is that secondary care was putting obstacles in the way of GPs doing their job rather than trying to facilitate. Could you get an ECG before accepting a referral to a rapid access chest pain clinic! Please make sure that all the boxes in our referral form (4 pages long and different for each hospital/speciality) are filled in otherwise we won't accept the referral.

    It is just easier to stop rather than continue to fight. Add into the mix annual appraisal, indemnity etc, annual mandatory training. Society will only realise what a jewel we had when it is gone

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  • years of political correctness by RCGP and BMA in agreeing to impossible work load and over-bearing professional regulation cannot be fixed by increase in pay alone. The hopeless contract needs to be unraveled and something beautifully simple put in its place.

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  • I am 65. I am no longer doing day to day GP work. I do minor surgery organised by an external agent. The administration is super efficient. The paperwork I do is entirely related to the work I do. I still enjoy my work.

    I cannot understand Mr Hunt's mentality clawing back seniority. That's not the way to retain us senior GPs, who still have much experience to offer.

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  • Much more than pay/LTA/60%tax, are the multitude of pressures: Regulatory overhead, complaints (ombudsman), expectations, lack of support, political expediency, real powerlessness with notional responsibility (CCG/ACO), political hostility, capricious CQC, NHS propco, appraisal, top down reform, unfunded transfer of work; all are signals by actions not words, what DoH/HMG's priorities are.

    We have all met senior staff of CCG, DoH, Ombudsman and CQC who think GPs are NHS salaried staff... sigh!

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