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GPs go forth

Number of qualified FTE GPs drops by 2% in a year

The number of fully qualified full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs has dropped by 2% over the past year, according to new figures.

Data published by NHS Digital today revealed the number of fully qualified GPs, excluding registars, went from 29,190 to 28,596 between December 2017 and December 2018.

The figures also showed there were 1,003 fewer GP partners (headcount) over the same period, a 4.4% decline.

This comes as analysis by the Health Foundation said worrying trends in the NHS workforce, including falling numbers of FTE GPs, will seriously hinder the Government's plan to move care out of hospitals and into the community.

Last month, health secretary Matt Hancock told Pulse a new date for when the Government should meet its target of adding 5,000 more GPs in the workforce has not been set.

In 2015, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to add at least 10,000 extra primary care staff, including 5,000 GPs, within five years.

But Mr Hancock has since said that while the target still exists, the timing ‘will be slower than was originally envisaged’.

BMA GP Committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘Despite pledges from the Government to increase numbers of GPs, these figures confirm that the complete opposite is happening on the ground.

'Workforce shortages continue to blight general practice and exacerbate other workplace pressures, including unmanageable workloads, for the remaining staff.'

‘It is important, however, to note the great progress made in the recent five-year contract deal, which will improve the way practices can work together, with a wider range of health professionals to manage demand and improve working conditions for GPs. It is by making general practice a more attractive prospect, and fostering a more positive working environment, that we can begin to recruit and retain more talented doctors to the profession,' he added.

Kent LMC medical secretary Dr Mike Parks said the figures are worrying but not surprising.

He said: ‘[These figures are] worrying but not particularly surprising, they certainly mirror our experience in Kent, where we have some of the worst doctor-patient ratios in England.

‘Of course these figures predate the outcome of the partnership review and the publication of the 2019/20 contract deal. We will all be working very hard to make general practice an increasingly attractive place to work. The provision of the state-backed indemnity scheme and the development of primary care networks are both good news for general practice and will help.’

BMA's GPC workforce subcommittee member Dr Victoria Weeks said the data may reflect the number of FTE GPs decreasing their sessions or becoming locums, rather than leaving the profession.

She said: ‘I suspect a good proportion of the drop in FTE is due to an increase in the number of GPs going part-time, as opposed to actually leaving.'

‘Last year, I was able to find out that the decrease in contractor GPs was just about mirrored by as an increase in salaried and Locum GP numbers. It’s not that they’re leaving the profession, what they are doing is they’re changing what they do.

'But I do feel worried about the figures. We’re decreasing the number of FTE GPs quite substantially, and that will impact upon clinical service provision.'

Last year, Pulse revealed the number of GP partners working for the NHS in England had fallen by nearly 5,000 in the past 10 years.

FTE practice staff as of December 2018:

  • All GPs: 34,510, a 0.1% drop (27) compared to December 2017
  • All fully qualified GPs, excluding registars: 28,596, a 2% decrease (593) compared to December 2017
  • Nurses: 16,384, which is a 1.8% increase (288) compared to December 2017
  • Direct patient care staff: 12,858, a 6.6% rise (793) compared to December 2017
  • Admin and non-clinical staff: 66,776, a 2.2% increase (1,412) compared to December 2017

Source: NHS Digital

Data published by NHS Digital today revealed the number of fully qualified GPs, excluding registrars, changed from 29,190 to 28,596 between December 2017 and December 2018.



Readers' comments (15)

  • The state backed indemnity scheme may help but herding independent contractors (btw) into primary care networks won't make the slightest difference.
    Encouraging the CQC to develop a more formative approach and impressing upon CCGs that rather than dance to their next useless initiative we actually have to look after sick patients would have more impact.

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  • Nhsfatcat

    The loss of GPs quotes as 593 or 2% is meaningless.
    If you state that leave 1.2million patients without a GP it means more! Daily Fail style reporting. However we know that those 1.2m patients will have a GP who has too many patient to be safe. They love the airline analogy- same number of passengers flying but 1.2 million passengers have to get into already full planes- like that happens!

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  • the data states FTE = 37.5 hrs of work, as most GPs do far more than this this is actually an underestimate of FTE hours provided by GPs for free to the NHS. As GP numbers drop and others are employed to take up the extra workload, included the unpaid work, which then you have to pay for, the actual costs to cover the loss of any GP needs to be increased by at least 25%. as most private forms have not included the unpaid factor in bidding for contracts its no surprise that they can't make a profit and fail. anyone who understands how GP works would know this.

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  • Nhsfatcat 21 Feb 2:02pm

    Totally agree. The ‘airline analogy’ is the beloved of the meeja, tho’ the lack of ‘capacity’ problem has been resolved (within historical times) by directing the surplus to the ‘black box’. If only the medical profession could find such a safe solution for the 1.2million patients seeking a GP???

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  • This trend will only continue and the new,not fit for purpose contract will no stop it.I can see nothing to keep us flogging ourselves to death in GP land.They want salaried minions,the way its going they will have not one GP when they get to HMO world.

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  • Have you seen what Devon have suggested as a motion for the LMC conference about this?

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  • 38,000 minus 10,000 is not 2%, it is 26%.

    And it all depends on whether a GP doing 7am to 9pm 5 days a week is counted as only 26 hours (full time), even though the reason for the 70 hour week is that they are covering the work of 3 jobs of 26 hours each!

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I think they are fed up with Pulse continually producing the same picture of the strange-looking woman with the weird eyes,and are worried they will end up like her if they stay as a GP.

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  • So just over 3 “normal” days in GP land is actually f/t?!!

    Why are govt not reporting how many of us are working 1.5x to 2x f/t per week and still it’s not enough.... accurate data would make a mockery of the Mail witch hunt on real drawings per hour worked.

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  • There are 2 solutions possible to improve the number of FTE GPs, but strangely government policy works directly against them:

    1 - Reduce retirements. The fading away of seniority will just push people to retirement. A 10k pay cut is not the way to keep people coming in to work. I don't get much seniority, so it is not a personal issue for me, but I can see that stopping it will directly lead to retirements. Keeping it will stop those retirements and not cost government a single penny.

    2 - Encouraging people to work more sessions. But there are just loads of disincentives to do so.
    - Why should a 10 session doctor pay a higher pension contribution than 2 separate 5 session doctors in the same practice?
    - Why should a 10 session (higher earning) partner be forced to publish their earnings, whereas two 5-session partners in the same practice do not?
    - Why should a 10 session partner be stung with a pension contribution tax whereas two 5-session partners don't have to?
    - Why should a practice who has a 10 session doctor sick (or on maternity leave) have to pay for half of their locum costs, but if there were two 4 session doctor and a 2 session doctor all off sick at the same time have all their locum costs covered?

    The 'war' on full time working has to end. People should have the choice how much they work (and certainly not forced to work more sessions); but people should not be penalised for working a higher number of sessions.

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