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350 fewer GPs than 2015 despite promises of 5,000 more by 2020

The number of full-time equivalent GPs in the workforce has increased by just over 300 from March to June, despite NHS managers’ support package last year designed to significantly boost numbers. 

NHS Digital figures released today reveal that numbers have increased by 0.9% - or 321 - since March.

However, they are 350 less than in September 2015 - when the Government said it was going to increase the workforce by 5,000 GPs.

It comes on the same day that NHS England told Pulse it is going to recruit 600 overseas GPs by April 2018 for practices to recruit.

The BMA said that this ‘marginal’ increase was 'disappointing' as it comes 'despite repeated promises by politicians that patients would be seeing thousands more GPs trained’.

NHS England introduced a series of schemes in its April 2015 GP Forward View designed to significantly increase the number of GPs in the system, including efforts to make it easier for GPs outside the UK to return to the profession, and incentives for older GPs to continue practising.

However, despite these measures, figures are increasing at a slow pace and there were 600 fewer GPs in June 2017 than in March 2016, the month before NHS England announced the GP Forward View.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: 'It is disappointing that once again the latest official figures show only a marginal increase in the GP workforce in England despite repeated promises by politicians that patients would be seeing thousands more GPs trained in the UK delivering care in the NHS. Many GP practices are struggling badly to provide enough appointments and basic services to the public because of endemic staff shortages. A recent BMA poll found that a third of GP practices had vacancies unfilled for more than a year.' 

Speaking to Pulse yesterday about efforts to bring in overseas GPs, NHS England's national director for primary care Dr Arvind Madan said: 'While we’re doing well at encouraging more doctors than ever to become GPs and doing things like increasing medical school places and enticing people back into general practice, who previously worked in this country as a GP, the pace at which people are deciding to leave means that we have to work even harder to increase the numbers.

'Ultimately the ambition of Government is to become self-sufficient, but this is a sort of bridging period and the measures we’re taking to address it.'

GP figures since September 2015

 September 2015 - finalMarch 2016 - finalSeptember 2016 - final December 2016 - final March 2017 - final June 2017 - provisional
Full time equivalent GPs
34,592 34,914 34,495 34,126 33,921 34,242

Source: NHS Digital

Readers' comments (17)

  • Doctor McDoctor Face

    There are more but less. Where is Professor Hawkins when we need him.

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  • Again no reflection on making the job more appealing- just try and stuff more in- the result will just be more flooding out.

    "Sort of bridging period" - more a road to nowhere.

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  • I BLAME THE "DAILY NUTTER" AND THE "MORAL GANGSTERS" WHO CALL THE SHOTS.

    I WANT TO SEE:

    1. A "GROVELLING APOLOGY FOR THE SUSTAINED BULLYING CAMPAIGN AGAINST GPs"

    2. INCENTIVES TO GP PARTNERS TO STOP US LEAVING WHICH IS BLOODY IMMINENT.

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  • HUNT WILL BE ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW TO THE "DAILY NUTTER" DISCUSSING A "SPIN STORY"....SAY EVIL GPs BUYING NEW ELECTRIC BENTLEYS RATHER THAN SEEING PATIENTS OR SOME SIMILAR FICTIONAL CRAP TO FEED THE PUBLIC.

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  • Presumably the numbers fall through the year and swell in August/September as new GPs finish their training?

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  • Thanks for the comment - this is something we considered, but as the table we've since added shows, this doesn't seem to happen

  • Gabapentatryptacodone has hit the nail on the head - what's the seasonally adjusted figure?
    ALSO
    are we sure they haven't changed the definition of 'full-time'?

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  • NHS England's national director for primary care Dr Arvind Madan said: "blah blah blah"

    The BMA said "blah blah blah"

    NHS Digital figures released today ......blah blah blah

    Unlimited direct access, inappropriate requests, demands from everyone and their dog etc etc etc THE JOB IS S**T, make it better controlled and the problem is solved. If the powers that be don't want to address how overwhelming it is then the numbers will never add up, however much the figures are manipulate. And the verbal diarrhoea will continue......

    My Practice doesn't have any unfilled vacancies and we are inundated with work. In my early 50s and am ready to leave my partnership in 1 year. You can try and increase the number of GPs by piddly amounts but it doesn't solve the free for all buffet that is the elephant in the room.

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  • Well it's an increase of sorts... almost back to baseline...

    Everything is awesome, nothing bad is happening...

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  • There is also the harder to measure effect of how people work. Not just full time V part time, but exactly what full time involves.

    Our 4 full time partners at my surgery probably works 60 hours a week. And our 4 part time (half time) GPs probably does close to 40 hours per week. That is 6 full time equivalent doctors doing 400 hours in a week.

    If they are replaced by 10 full time doctors working 38 hour weeks as salaried doctors for a mega-practice. That will be a 65% increase in full time doctors while actually reducing the hours worked by 20.

    That is not to say working a reasonable week is wrong, it is probably far better for everyone's health and lifestyle. But when talking about the number of full time doctors working in the UK, I suspect the government will conveniently ignore the change in work pattern that is happening at the same time.

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  • Well done to NHSE and the DOH for increasing GP numbers from 34,914 to 34,242!

    Errr, wait a minute...?

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