How we worked out the GP numbers
Full methodology for Pulse's February 2020 feature on GP workforce numbers
In September 2018, there were 27,556 full-time equivalent qualified GPs excluding locums, according to NHS Digital (Bulletin tables, tab 1b). In September 2019, this figure had dropped to 26,958 – a decrease of 1.78%. We mapped this out for the next few years to Sep 2023 (which is the last set of data before the 2024/25 target date for the Government’s 3,000 extra qualified GPs).
We also worked out that the Government would need an increase of 2.67% every year to hit 29,958 – 3,000 more than September 2019 figures – by September 2023.
Recent trainee increases
The Government has been successful in increasing training numbers in recent years. We looked at official figures to try and work out the attrition rate of GP trainees becoming full-time equivalent qualified GPs.
To do this, we looked at figures from the GP National Recruitment Office (General Practice ST1 Recruitment Figures 2016). We then looked at the number of under 45s entering the profession in September 2019 – three years later - based on NHS Digital figures. This was the method used by the Nuffield Trust (which was cited by NHS England).
The data showed that there were 1,930 under 45 FTE GPs entering the profession in 2019 (Supplementary Information Tables, tab 13b). This was 64% of the 3,019 medical graduates starting GP training in 2016. We applied this 64% to the cohorts starting training in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to work out the FTE numbers in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.
To work out the ST1 numbers for 2020 (and thus the FTE starters in 2023) we looked at Foundation Programme figures on the number of medical graduates starting F1 in 2017 (Table 2.14: Match to Programme Results by Foundation School) excluding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which totalled 5,597. We then looked at the number of GP ST1 starters in 2019, which was 3,512 – 63% of the F1 starters two years previous.
We applied this 63% to the number of F1 starters in 2018 (P15, table 1.14, Match to Programme Results by Foundation School, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland removed) – 5,592 – giving us our ST1 starters in 2020. We then applied the 64% figure to this number.
Finally, we looked at our projected numbers of starters, and compared them with the number of under 45 FTE GPs starting in 2019 – 1,930 (numbers in brackets). This totalled an extra 1,030 GPs in the system by September 2023.
We looked at the NHS digital figures for FTE GPs in each age group in September 2019 and compared it with September 2018 to see the percentage change (Bulletin tables, tab 5b).
We then applied this percentage change to each age group on an annual basis until September 2023.
We looked at the number of FTE registrars in the system in September 2019 and compared it with September 2018. (Bulletin tables, tab 1b).
We then applied this percentage change every year until September 2023.