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CAMHS won't see you now

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)

  • Nhsfatcat

    Dear Pulse
    316 WTE GPs doesn't sound much. But with average list per GP rising to near 2000 that's 632000 people without a GP. More than Cornwall, more than Sheffield and slightly less than Leeds without a GP. G'wan be a bit Daily Fail!

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  • Come 2020 the DoH and Hunt will just spin their abject failure away as quickly as they plucked the 5000 figure out of the air pre-election....they genuinely don't care which is why partners are continuing to retire early or switch to locum as there is no prospect of any real or meaningful change on the horizon. The present Govt want primary care to fail...then their friends in the private section can ''ride to the rescue''

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  • I’m saddened by the situation we’re in. I genuinely thought that general practice would be given a lifeline. Now I think it’s too late. As stated already we have a population who have a sense of entitlement. An aging population, poor hospital discharges etc, massively increased workload with no ability to cap this. Increasing blame culture, leading to more administration with complaints etc. We’re all vulnerable to a serious complaint that could have occurred as the 50th encounter that day, but the lawyers won’t care. I genuinely don’t know what to to do, to stay or jump ship....

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  • It is down to a multitude of factors. As a partner I left my practice as I did not want to be the last man standing as a result of a catastrophic reduction after a) PMS review and b) unacceptable service charge hike. I had already decided to take my pension at 55 as I had reached my LTA and owing to the intensity of the work i was going to go part time. Finances (the loss of seniority plus an unfair PMS review with poor Carr Hill formula) made the practice unviable, and self preservation pushed me into the world of locuming. Why would any GP taking on the risks of being a partner.

    What I could never understand was that despite being quite open with NHSE, and involving MPs, councillors etc they were quite happy to see a good practice fail

    The PMS review was started during the labour government, and CCGs came into being in 2012 during the coalition - setting GPs up to fail. The focus was was always on saving money and anything that secondary care wanted to pass off onto General Practice was meekly accepted. Money never followed the patient.

    Ultimately it was inevitable that senior GPs would have had enough and if you are a junior GP and are "left holding the baby" you would want to go. With this background why would any newly qualified GP want to be a partner with the risk!

    I am also not sure where they get the figures from, as I do not think there is a register of locums.

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  • I dont know how they can say have so many overseas GPs coming when there is a quota how many "foreigners" are allowed in. As the PM said herself she wants to create a hostile environment for illegal or from what we can see the Windrush scandal legal migrants.

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  • David Banner

    2010 - “Well the job gets crappier every year, but at least the money’s good”
    2014 - “Well my profits are falling every year, but at least the pension’s good”
    2018 - “Well the pension taxes are killing me, but at least.........hang on, why the hell am I still here??”
    2021 - ........(“Will the last GP to leave turn the lights off please?”)

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  • I think it's clear they want Dr-led General Practice, and Partnerships in particular, to fail. In their minds it's an unsustainable model that costs the NHS too much money. They would far rather have a salaried service run by Primary Care Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics and GP associates. They believe that this model will provide a cheaper service.
    What they don't realise is all the years of training and experience that most GPs have is exactly what used to make Primary Care so effective and efficient and lessen the burden (and expense) on Secondary Care Services and the NHS as a whole.
    They'll miss us when we're gone and realise how much work and responsibility we took on outside of our normal 'contracts'.
    If you're not out already, come join the lighter side of life!

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  • We need a plan B, a lifeboat to escape the NHS, but the BMA persist in prioritising "saving the NHS" ahead of saving the Doctors who pay their wages.

    And a special thanks to the RCGP whose determination to turn us into social workers and enthusiasm for the Appraisal and Revalidation nonsense has driven so many older Doctors into premature retirement.

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  • It is partly our fault!
    In NI we gave BMA our resignation letter to leave the NHS and go private, sadly NI did not reach the 60 per cent trigger to set the ball rolling and the effort was for nothing
    Too many GPs lacked the courage or foresight to risk leaving the “cosy fluffy” NHS to face the uncertainties of private practice and would rather remain underpaid and living in an abusive NHS system, I don’t fully blame them as the uncertainty was immense but settling for what we have rather than risking for better was in my opinion a fatal error

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  • So we need a lifeboat to escape the NHS do we? It will be like the Titanic where 19 lifeboats were provided but 67 were needed to save all passengers in event of a disaster and this was a cost saving decision.
    Does that sound familiar? I presume that it will be the politicians and public first priority and leave the GPs behind to wither and die. Sounds all too familiar again doesn’t it?

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