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NHS has lost 1,000 GPs since Jeremy Hunt set workforce target

The GP workforce in England is continuing to decline, as official statistics reveal that 316 full-time equivalent GPs have left the profession in the last three months.

The figures released by NHS Digital today also reveal that the number of FTE GPs in the workforce has decreased more than 1,000 since September 2015 - when health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he would increase the number of FTE GPs in England by 5,000.

NHS England is recruiting from overseas in a bid to boost GP numbers, but Pulse revealed last month that they had only managed to recruit 85 by April - despite originally touting the figure of 600.

The latest statistics show that in the last three months, the workforce has fallen from 33,890 FTE GPs in December 2017 to 33,574 as of 31 March 2018.

Meanwhile, the workforce is 1,018 GPs worse off than it was in September 2015.

This is despite the success of NHS England's induction and refresher scheme, which has tempted 546 GPs back into the workforce since its launch in 2015.

The news comes as a Pulse investigation, published earlier this month, showed a steep rise in the number of GPs claiming their pension early. Since 2013, almost 3,000 GPs have claimed their pension before the age of 60.

The BMA has previously warned the Government that continued sub-inflation uplifts to GP pay is going to further exacerbate GP workforce shortages, having asked the independent review body on doctor's pay to recommend a 2% uplift for 2018/19.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA's GP Committee, said the latest workforce statistics are 'extremely concerning'.

He said: 'It’s more than two and a half years since the health secretary promised to recruit 5,000 more GPs before 2020, and these figures are a damning progress report. With less than two years until this target date, the trend is clearly going the other way and it's a sign that a step change in action needs to be taken.

'As GPs struggle with rising demand, increasing workloads and burdensome admin, and are expected to do so with insufficient resources, it’s no surprise that talented doctors are leaving the profession and although the number of GP training places have increased, this is not enough to address the dire recruitment and retention crisis.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'These figures are yet another hammer blow for family doctors, for whom going the extra mile is now the norm, and for our patients. The stark truth is that we are losing GPs at an alarming rate at a time when we need thousands more to deliver the care our patients need, and keep our profession, and the wider NHS, sustainable.

'It is clear that substantial efforts to increase the GP workforce in England are falling short – and we need urgent action to address this. We have made great strides over the past couple of years encouraging more medical students and foundation doctors to choose general practice, but these efforts will be futile, if more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it.'

She said this comes as 'GP workload is escalating, both in volume and complexity, and the hardworking GPs we do have are burning out as we try to cope without the resources and support we need'.

 'Longer and longer days in clinic is what our members are telling us they face when they come to work in the morning, exacerbated by a mountain of bureaucracy and paperwork. This isn’t safe for GPs, our teams, or our patients, and if it isn’t tackled GPs will continue to leave the profession early, and new GPs will be put off from joining,' she added.

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the data marked 'yet another broken promise on NHS staffing from ministers'.

'It’s an embarrassing failure for the secretary of state that far from delivering the extra GPs primary care desperately need, there are now 1,000 fewer family doctors than in 2015.

'The truth is that the Tories have failed to bring forward a sustainable long term plan for the NHS. The consequence is the biggest financial squeeze in its 70-year history and a failure to recruit the frontline doctors and nurses we need to care for patients.'

A department of health and social care spokesperson said: 'We are committed to meeting our objective of recruiting an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020. This is an ambitious target and shows our commitment to growing a strong and sustainable general practice for the future.

'More than 3,000 GPs have entered training this year, 1,500 new medical school places are being made available by 2019 and NHS England plans to recruit an extra 2,000 overseas doctors in the next three years.'

GP workforce in numbers

RoleSeptember 2015March 2016September 2016December 2016March 2017June 2017 5September 2017December 2017March 2018 - provisional
All Practitioners 34,592 34,914 34,495 34,126 33,921 33,560 34,091 33,890 33,574
GP Providers 21,937 21,597 21,163 20,835 20,702 20,499 20,234 20,128 19,891
Salaried/Other GPs 7,292 7,436 7,295 7,300 7,390 7,359 7,603 7,802 7,882
GP Registrars 4,729 5,114 5,273 5,259 4,799 4,647 5,135 5,016 4,857
GP Retainers 67 78 72 69 81 84 90 108 119
GP Locums 567 690 692 663 949 970 1,029 836 825

Readers' comments (37)

  • Thank you Daily Mail!!!!

    YOU HAVE CAUSED THIS MESS WITH YOUR "ABSURD AND CRIMINAL" ATTACKS ON GPs. THE GENERAL PUBLIC SHOULD BE "ENRAGED BY THE DAILY MAIL" AND MIGHT EVEN "BOYCOTT THIS MEDIA RAG".

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  • Another brilliant result for Mr.Hunt! Anyway not only is there an overall shrinking of GP workforce but a large proportion of those now entering general practice choose to be part time (both male and female) which compounds the deficit even more.
    If you make a job so unattractive then it’s hardly going to attract anyone but that also applies to the public services as a whole ie medicine,nursing, teaching, police, prison wardens etc.
    What depressing times that Prozac won’t solve!

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  • I have a cunning media plan....respond to this crisis by further "criminal attacks and fake news"....that will then trigger another round of resignations of GPs and so the cycle continues.

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  • 2 % is still a subinflation uplift pathetic!

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  • WitchHunt on GPs results in GPHunt in coming years. Are we really talking about achievement of a Hunt?

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  • The interesting thing here is the rise and drop in locum numbers.

    Goes against what I see on the ground. I suspect its due to the 7 day services distorting the locum market.

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  • The position of a GP principal is unsustainable
    If you can not envisage working for at least 5 years ahead or longer the kid is too stressful
    Reduced funding, CCG CQC etc etc are unhelpful
    No easy answer

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  • Peter Swinyard

    just as well we don't have a Labour government - they promised 8000 more GPs to the Tories' 5000.
    This is much more complex than simple spin will explain. One major retention problem is the lifetime allowance cap on pensions - as GPs, that means most will be wise to stop contributing in their early 50's. So one major carrot to working into your 60's disappears with the Treasury showing no inclination to revisit that dire decision. Add to that the demands of the workload and the incessant negative media and the "entitled" attitude of patients that follows from being told that they can have unlimited rice pudding when actually their ration is a teaspoon a fortnight - and this is a toxic mix to unravel.
    It is not beyond the wit of man. But it may be time for a new figurehead at DoH (& Social Care)...

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  • Sorry I meant job not kid Predictive text !

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  • I wonder how Im personally coded in this - Im a partner in Wales but do OOHs for Shropdoc so am on Welsh and English PL. I don't do ANY daytime work in England (ever).

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