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State of the profession

More women GPs, more part-timers, larger practices and hundreds of older GPs hanging on for a pension windfall.

This is the state of general practice, the Government's annual census of the GP workforce has revealed.

Statistics released this week show a record rise of 1,217 GPs in the year to September 2005, with women doctors accounting for three out of every four new entrants.

More than half of new GPs worked part-time, taking the total up to 26.5 per cent of the GP workforce.

The average GP's list reduced in size by 52 patients to just over 1,600. In contrast, practices grew larger, showing the shift towards 'super-surgeries' is already taking place.

Numbers of singlehanded, two-, three- and four-partner practices all fell, though the drop in singlehanders was less steep than in recent years.

An 8.5 per cent jump in the number of GPs aged over 55 indicated that the predicted retirement timebomb, triggered by expected high pension payouts from the new contract, is waiting to go off.

GPs said the figures were evidence of fundamental change in the profession and that practices would have to adapt.

Dr Mark Hunt, a GP at a 23-doctor practice in Frome, Somerset, said: 'The nature of the job is changing and continuity of care has to be provided in a different way.'

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