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Independents' Day

Number of fully qualified FTE GPs drops by 2.5% in a year

The number of fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs dropped by 2.5% from March 2019 to March 2020, the latest official figures show.

The data released by NHS Digital today shows there were 27,985 FTE GPs on 31 March 2020 - 712 fewer than 31 March 2019. The total number of GPs also decreased by 0.6%.

NHS Digital said that its data had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but added: ’We believe that the headline figures included in the bulletin remain of immediate use, even when balanced against these data quality considerations.’

The new report shows an 8.9% increase in FTE ’direct patient care staff’, up to 14,134 - an increase of 1,158.

The Conservatives pledged to increase GP numbers by 6,000 by 2024/25 in their 2019 election manifesto, having failed to meet the original target of a 5,000 increase from 2015 to 2020.

The latest figures reveal that there are, in fact, 1,400 fewer FTE qualified GPs in March 2020 than there were when the previous health secretary Jeremy Hunt made his pledge in September 2015.

The number of FTE GP partners fell by 5.4% in the year, with the number of salaried GPs increasing by 4.5%.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said: ’These figures continue to show a worrying decline in the number of full-time equivalent GPs and GP partners specifically over the last year. In recent months, general practice has rallied around in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, working innovatively to continue providing care to patients, and proving the true value of holistic, person-centred care delivered within communities.

’In a post-Covid world it is imperative that this work is not forgotten and that this value is truly recognised, to ensure this foundation of the NHS is given the freedom and resources it needs to provide high quality care to patients.’

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: ’It’s very concerning to see the number of full-time equivalent GPs in the profession continues to fall. We had 712 fewer fully-qualified FTE GPs in March than we did a year earlier. These figures show that while attention has been understandably focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce challenges have not gone away. This must be addressed – policy makers must not forget the promises that have been made for general practice, including 6,000 more FTE GPs, so that we can continue to deliver care to more than a million patients a day.

‘Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen the goodwill of retired GPs returning to support the NHS and we would like to see initiatives introduced to retain these GPs post-pandemic, particularly those who retired early due to undoable workload. During the crisis we’ve seen that general practice functions well without so much bureaucracy, and if this in turn helps keep GPs in the profession then it’s something that should be considered in future plans.’


NHS Digital figures in full

 March 2019March 2020% difference March 2019 - March 2020
All GPs 34,736 34,327 -1.2
All Fully Qualified GPs (excludes Registrars)  28,697 27,985 -2.5
All Regular GPs (excludes Locums)  33,420 33,135 -0.9
All Qualified Permanent GPs (excludes Registrars & Locums) 27,381 26,793 -2.1
GP Partners 18,933 17,910 -5.4
Salaried GPs 8,299 8,671 4.5
GP Registrars  6,039 6,342 5.0
GP Retainers 149 211 42.2
GP Locums  1,316 1,192 -9.4

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Readers' comments (24)

  • So the number of GPs are falling, FTE as well is falling. Our response and great idea:find more work for the fewer GPs to do!

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  • Could we get the figure for the last 5 years?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Salaried , registrars and retainers had increased in numbers. Partners and locums are diminishing.
    And the total of FTE went done .
    Well , the arithmetic is telling and the government should logically know where the focus of attention lies.
    Guess not , GMS partnership is just too crap to be attractive.

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  • Dont worry the pan-bangers giving you a clap tonight will solve the problem for sure,mmm .Another one going as early as possible here,counting down the months.

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  • I have 3 children, none of which even contemplated medicine despite 2 parents being GPs
    I read this headline out loud and my 20 year old son asked why doesn’t anyone want to be a GP?
    I could only answer ‘ because the job is crap’
    General Practice is no longer a professional full time career option which is shocking.
    Every one of my friends works full time in a career
    We have leaders and influencers everywhere supposedly.
    No other professional group would allow that to happen.
    It is finished as a career as all the available money has gone into PCN staff and there won’t be any extra.
    All we can do is hang on as long as we can tolerate it till it falls apart.

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  • The job is impossible. There aren't enough hours in the day to complete a full days work of admin, lab results, radiology, docman, sick notes, benefits forms, emails. . . let alone seeing patients or running the whole practice!

    Its not natural for a human, a product of 200 000 years evolution of running around in the wild, to be sat stressed behind a desk for 13 hours a day looking at a screen. This is why most GPs end up depressed or physically ill. Your body is not designed for this. Not to mention the stigma of being a GP and the hate you get at dinner parties from Daily Mail luvvies.

    GP is not worth your health. GP is not worth sacrificing your home life and relationships for. Maybe if you were a paediatric heart surgeon working for MSF it would be worth the sacrifice but not for being a pound shop counsellor/sick note officer/free public punchbag.

    Meanwhile most hospital consultants live it up in their ivory towers with their guaranteed salaries, showered in public admiration, they work predictable hours and usually are out the door by 5pm taking on additional evening/weekend sessions of private work. No one grills them on their earnings when they are at the school gates collecting their kids.

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  • At the moment most consultations are video or telephone. Up to 90%. Many practices will want to continue this after the Covid crisis is over. The problem of unmet need , no opportunistic screening, barriers to the elderly and mental health patients will be a problem . I would suggest that being a video consulting GP will be a soul less job . Increased medicolegal risk. Young doctors will be further discouraged . Such consultations will be dealt with in large call centres , local practices will close at ever faster rates. GP will be dissected up, Medicine management to pharmacies, palliative care to palliative care teams and so on,
    No longer will GPs give continuity of care.
    How terribly depressing.

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  • DrRubbishBin

    stopped giving a crap a year or so ago, engaging your heart in general practice is pain. leaves you wide open to exploitation and is bad for your soul. these days i work for the money, enjoy the bits i can and observe

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  • Next NHS incentive - go clean the care home toilets. Then go staff ITU. Otherwise we'll vaporise you.

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