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The waiting game

GP workforce figures compound fears of a workforce crisis

The number of GPs in England only increased slightly in 2012, compounding fears that the profession is in the midst of a workforce crisis.  

Official figures reveal that GP numbers increased by only 485 from 2011 – a rise of 1.2% – much lower than the average annual increase of 2.2% over the past decade.

These figures come as practitioners say they are unable to find new staff, which is leading to increasing workloads.

The NHS staff census figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, revealed that the increase in GPs was far outstripped by the 3.3% increase in the number of consultants rose by over the same period despite the Government’s stated aim of moving towards a primary care led health service.

Since 2002, the GP workforce has seen an overall increase of workers by 24.7%, whereas consultants have increased twice at quickly at 49.2%.

Experts fear these figures represent a mounting problem where students increasingly choose against pursuing careers as GPs, which is combined with increasing numbers of experienced GPs retiring early.

Dr Barry Lewis, chair of the committee of GP education directors, said: ‘Unfortunately, the figures continue to demonstrate the imbalance in recruitment and future workforce we have raised for some time.

‘If the NHS is to deliver an effective system of primary care that we know from research is the most cost effective way of delivering compassionate, safe and effective health care, we need a significant shift in career intentions and choice by those in medical school and other undergraduate health care courses.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC said the figures could be worse than suggested in the report.

‘I suspect that this is head count rather than whole time equivalent,’ he said. ‘Which means, as many new GPs are part-time, there is an even smaller rise in the GP workforce at exactly the time that practices are under huge workload pressure.’

Professor Irish, a GP in Bristol who chairs a group on workforce as part of a Government taskforce on boosting GP numbers, said any increase is better than no increase.

‘This reflects a lot of hard work on behalf of the deaneries and schools of general practice to achieve this,’ he said.

‘There is still a long way to go, clearly, before we come close to the DH target or 50% of the output of GPs going into general practice.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Pulse Live

You can find out more about how to protect your earnings at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers. Richard Apps, partner at RSM Tenon, will be presenting a session on how to maximise your practice income and keep an eye on your cash flow.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.

Readers' comments (13)

  • simply solution get rid of the eportfolio. focus on clinical excellence and do something about that csa exam. this will solve the problem.

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  • Why don,t we in the UK have something like this-
    I am sick of the negative press we are getting.
    Type my "GP is" into google and you get '" my GP is useless" or "rubbish" coming up as the most searched.
    I can,t believe I am posting anonymously also, as I am also sick of the Trolls who respond in a" well you are overpaid etc.." style back to our posts. When I was A child doctors were well paid, I knew that, thats part of the reason I became one. Now I have to write something like " not the only reason, I also care " which was never questioned when I applied to Medical school!of course I care if I didn,t I would have become a politician!
    Please can we do something for our morale!

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  • Stop drumming it up.There is no crisis.Some areas have always been in deficit (inner cities,rural etc) and others (leafy suburbs) have always been in great demand and thus it will continue to be.

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  • Anonymous 8.26pm.
    Which country are you living in?

    GP is on the brink of collapse in the UK starting with OOH.

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  • Same old whiny record stuck in a groove:can't recruit so general practice/NHS in crisis, atishoo atishoo we all fall down.

    You need to think of a different propaganda strategy.You exist only because the sheltered environment of the NHS allows you to do so.You guys are not specialists and if you were exposed to the full fury of market forces you'll be completely dispensed with.The public doesn't need to pay you lot 100 grand/yr for "communication skills".General practice should be phased out completely.

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  • Anonymous 10:04

    I do not think we are paid that for our 'communication skills', good that they are. I think it is for our generalist skills. Most of us save a few lives each year that would have been lost, because the patient has not realised the significance of certain symptoms and signs.

    My last 'save' was a chap who had been sent by the pharmacist to get some aciclovir for his 'shingles'. He had streptococcal septicaemia and spent a week in ITU. How about the chap who just wanted some painkillers for his back pain. He had an aortic aneurysm that was just about to pop. Thanks to me he was operated on that day.

    £100,000 , I wish! Cheap. Ask those patients.

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  • 1.11 I agree. GPs are rubbish at telling everyone how good they are at their job. From the major things like you mentioned (My most recent was picking up a baby with a torn frenulum at his sister's appointment - admission - multiple injuries - in hands of police). To the very minor but incredibly important (annoying ACE cough, eczema meaning cannot work etc).

    When it is put into the hands of lesser trained/ cheaper people if unsurprisingly goes wrong (OOH/ 111/ APMS).

    All for 20% of the cost of gym membership and less per patient per year than half of one outpatient appointment.

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  • 10.04, I don't know if you are medical or have an idea what general practice involves. I think you are neither, you may have had a bad experience most likely and so behave like a scarred individual reacting the same way to a common heading. If general practice is phased out, you and your loved ones in times of need will have nowhere to turn to and those questions which preoccupy you will remain unanswered. Or you could see a specialist but there aren't many specialists who deal with undifferentiated illnesses and unpiece it (i.e General Practice)

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  • I agree with Anonymous | 22 March 2013 10:04pm.If GPs were that good they would have stayed on in hospital medicine where the real high intensity medicine happens.But instead you have a bunch of failed (may that's too strong a word.Let's say inadequate) bunch of doctors who opt for the easy route working in the community spending most of their time reassuring the worried well.To train a doctor to do that is a huge waste of taxpayer's money.A doctor's place is with the needy and the sick, hospital.

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  • Well there we go commentators have solved general practice problems. We are not needed as doctors are only needed where the sick are, these places are hospitals. We are fools to ourselves and must take our inadequate skills elsewhere. I am sure the cough, tinnitus and mole you have will be assessed by the respiratory, ENT and dermatology specialists in no time at all.

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