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The waiting game

Female GPs outnumber male GPs in England for the first time

There are more female than male GPs in England for the first time, while the number of GPs overall has declined, official data has shown.

The number of female GPs totalled 20,435 compared with 19,801 male counterparts according to the September NHS workforce census, after female numbers rose 3% in the year and male numbers declined by the same percentage. Over the last decade, numbers of female GPs have grown by more than 50%.

But while the number of female GPs rose, the overall number of GPs actually decreased between the 2012 and 2013 audits, the Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed.

The statistics reveal a sea change in the profession, which has traditionally been male-dominated, and there had been criticism that women are still not well represented at the top of the profession, although there has since been two female members added to the GPC negotiating team.

The figures follow an attack on female GPs last year by a Conservative MP who said that women doctors were a ‘tremendous burden’ on the NHS.

The HSCIC report said: ‘There are 20,435 females within the GP workforce (headcount), an increase of 2.9 per cent (570) since 2012. This is the first year female GP numbers have been greater than their male counterparts. Male headcount GPs number 19,801, a decrease of 2.9 per cent (599) since 2012.’

However, there was worrying news in overall decrease in the number of GPs for the first time.

The report said: ‘There are 40,236 headcount General Practitioners, a decrease of 29 (0.1%) since 2012 and a rise of 6,672 (19.9%) since 2003 (an average annual increase of 1.8%).’

But this came at the same time as the number of full-time equivalents increased.

The report added: ‘This represents 36,294 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) GPs, an increase of 423 (1.2%) since 2012 and an increase of 6,209 (20.6%) since 2003 (an average annual increase of 1.9%).’

The statistics further showed a trend towards fewer, larger GP practices in England, as the total number of practices decreased by 126 while average patients per practice rose to 7,034.

The report said: ‘In 2013 there were 7,962 general practices in England, a decrease of 126 (1.6%) on last year. The number of patients per practice has grown steadily in the last decade rising from 5,968 to 7,034 between 2003 and 2013, reflecting the move towards larger practices. Average practice list size varies between 5,935 in Merseyside Area Team and 8,960 in Hertfordshire and the South Midlands Area Team.’

Professor Clare Gerada, former chair of the RCGP and now an adviser to NHS England in London, said she was ‘delighted’ so many women were practicing as GPs.

She said: ‘It is a wonderful profession, and women make great GPs and leaders. I have no worries about the gender balance so long as it is the right people doing the job. What we need to focus on is lobbying for general practice to be adequately funded otherwise we will all be in trouble. As for the debate regarding female GPs working part time, general practice is a very tough profession and I think you get more out of two part-time female – or male – GPs, than any full-time GP, male or female.’

Dr Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes in Devon, House of Commons health committee member and a former GP, said: ‘Women have long played an essential role in primary care. I hope that NHS England will recognise that we must not lose their skills if they need to take time away for caring responsibilities. I would like to see more support for GP returner schemes to help them rejoin the workforce.’


Number of GPs as of September 2013

 All practitionersAll practitioners (excluding registrars & retainers)GP providerGP other (excluding registrars and retainers)

Source: HSCIC

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Readers' comments (33)

  • yes but how many are doing full time?
    and how many are doing part time?
    how many males are doing full time?
    how many males are doing part time?
    the results would be interesting

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  • WTE per patient is what we need to know

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  • Soon the male will go extinct and there will be only female species in England!

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  • I'm not sure if male or female is relevant.

    What we need to know is WTE numbers and how we are practicing and providing continuity of care. If we cannot do that then we will destroy our profession

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  • I have noticed that the type of men entering general practice are quite effeminate or to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger "girlie men".Perhaps real men are staying in hospital medicine.

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  • When you manufacture and conduct an exam clearly discriminate one gender over the other (evidence-statistics from RCGP) what else would you expect? Interestingly year after year regardless of the cohort of candidates/trainees statistics for pass rates for male/female, IMG/local remains the same (more or less). Is it a co incident? Is it intentional? Intelligent human beings will figure it out for themselves.

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  • The CSA has been designed to favour women passing this exam. Now there are more female GPs not a surprise. It will be easy for the government now to bulldoze through any proposal or change to the GP work structure as there will hardly be any resistance. This has been true for any profession where there are more ladies then men.

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  • Both the RCGP chair and chief examiner are female. It would be interesting to see the number of females passed their MRCGP compared to previous times since they took office in 2010.

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  • Well I would say it generally good in most ways.
    I say that as a man.
    Women do better academically than men but do not usually have proportional representation in high paying jobs.
    Women GP`s have lesser complaints and generally higher satisfaction rates.

    Few niggles.

    More women than men work part time ( happy to be corrected) which can have a slight impact on continuity and women refer slightly more than men (citation needed).

    So mostly good news.
    Not why some are upset by this!

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  • upset because people openly making some very discriminatory comments/displaying discriminatory beliefs that being a man somehow means you are impaired at being a good GP.
    if most women are working part time then it means seeing fewer patients than a full time male gp
    hence it means a male is more likely to have complaints. a proper analysis of the issues and consideration of all factors is needed but nobody seems to care

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