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Independents' Day

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)

  • 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.


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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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