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'Simply not enough' GPs, warns BMA as new analysis highlights hundreds lost from workforce

The falling number of GPs is 'simply not enough’ to meet the demand for services, the BMA has said in response to new analysis of official  figures underlining the dwindling workforce.

New analysis of NHS Digital statistics by the Trades Union Congress shows the number of full-time equivalent GPs in England, excluding registrars, fell by 917 between October 2015 and September 2019.

The TUC's analysis highlighted this equates to a 3% drop in the past four years.

It comes as Pulse recently reported that there has been a decrease of 1,008 fully-qualified FTE GPs since September 2015 - when former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to increase the workforce by 5,000 by 2020.

The BMA has reiterated its concerns about the falling GP numbers and again warned politicians over their ability to deliver election manifesto  pledges to boost GP numbers.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As we’ve said time and time again, there are simply not enough GPs to meet demand and guarantee safe, quality care to patients. And as doctors stretch themselves more thinly, they risk their own health and wellbeing.

‘As this analysis shows, despite pledges to increase numbers by 5,000 by next year, we’ve seen the exact opposite – with hundreds fewer family doctors than we did in 2015. While election promises to boost GP numbers are necessary and encouraging, politicians must learn from mistakes of the past.'

He added: ‘This means both encouraging more young doctors to choose general practice, while retaining those talented and experienced GPs who work tirelessly in their communities every day. And it means tackling unsustainable workloads and mounting bureaucracy, while scrapping damaging pension rules that are causing so many doctors to reduce their hours or leave the profession altogether.’

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The Conservatives promised a big increase in GP numbers. But on their watch the number of doctors has fallen while demand has increased.

‘Our hardworking and overstretched GPs are working tirelessly to help patients. But there are simply not enough of them to keep up with demand.

‘As a result, patients are not getting the treatments they need on time. And family doctors are stressed and overwhelmed.’

The BMA also recently said the Conservative pledge of recruiting 6,000 new doctors by 2024/25 is an 'ambitious target'.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Demand is infinite. In the absence of infinite numbers of GPs perhaps some limit to demand might be helpful.
    Charging users would help, as would reducing the amount of time wasting bureaucratic nonsense inflicted on us, starting with abolishing Appraisal and Revalidation.

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  • The beatings will continue.

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  • I retired last week though continued to 62,the fact remains everything comes down to terms and conditions and the huge fall in disposable income since 2005 out of spite by the Tory governments is now having its consequences as our junior colleagues shun partnerships in favour of flexible working in charge of their own destiny
    I don’t blame them at all
    The government answer is not to support the partnership model but destroy it leaving skilled doctors to be replaced by other healthcare staff who are not trained to the required skill set leaving the population vulnerable
    Cost saving penny pinching and political vindictive spite has brought us here and the population has to pay the price
    The doctors are out there just don’t want to work for an unforgiving NHS

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  • dear bma - been telling you this for the past 11 years. instead of words what are you actually going to do about it? if nothing, like normal, please may i suggest you disband the GP component of the BMA and allow us a new independent GP union instead that works on our behalf for us. You are, otherwise, a failure. kind regards.

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  • The problem and the solution are simply the Terms and Conditions we work under. Give us the resources we need to employ enough staff and deliver a good service; pay us better; sort out our pensions. Problem solved.

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  • No-one in the media seems to point out to our politicians that simply training more "family doctors" will make no significant difference to the NHS. There are many practices out there who would dearly love to take on new partners / salaried staff but we simply cannot afford to do so.
    In another 2-3 years the mythical 6000 new GPs will have bogged off to Australia / New Zealand because nobody will be able to employ them / pay their pensions etc etc.

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  • Yet they want more CQC rules, more safeguarding, more PCN meetings, more QoF, more useless meetings, more tax etc. Some hospitals have already shut any elective surgery for 4 months. The system is broken. Unlimited demands is not sustainable.

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  • DrRubbishBin

    "The doctors are out there just don’t want to work for an unforgiving NHS" That is it 100%

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  • Perhaps if the BMA gave a stuff for the members they would be working on a scheme that would enable Doctors and their patients to escape the NHS.
    Denplan seems to work for the dentists and is no more costly than a lot of phone contracts, or pet insurance.
    Quite why the BMA still has members is a mystery.

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  • I walked away four years ago and haven't looked back. My reasons for leaving were mainly the unrealistic expectations of patients. Old age is not a treatable illness, if your child is badly behaved or thick usually that is not a medical problem. if you are unhappy with your life, spouse, house, job, finances or benefits that isn't usually treatable either, if you drink too much, take drugs, eat excessively or don't exercise try changing your behaviour first. I was also fed up of being told by patients, the media and government that I was overpaid for doing an easy job. Non-medical internet business now pays better, I have lunch daily and only work 30hrs a week. GPs are bright and hard working and if you apply those qualities outside medicine you will almost always succeed. I do still feel guilty though because of the loss of experience after 23yrs nine-session f/t clinical work but recognise that that was part of my mistake. Good luck.

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