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Record rise in GP numbers – but managers also multiply

By Lilian Anekwe

NHS workforce figures published today show there has been the largest rise in GP numbers in thirteen years.

A census published by the NHS Information Centre shows the general practice workforce included a total of 40,269 GPs at the end of September 2009, or 36,085 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs.

This is a 7% rise in the total and a 6% rise in FTE numbers on the previous year's workforce figures – and the largest rise since 1997, when there were 29,389 GPs and 26,359 FTEs.

NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson said: ‘The census shows the largest rise in GP numbers since 1997. We can also see a welcome change in working practices in the NHS.'

‘The fact there are 1,900 more GPs and 3,000 more nurses working in the community means we are doing what we said we would in the NHS, which is to move care closer to people's homes. It's what patients have told us they want.'

But the figures also show a worrying rise in the number of managers employed by the NHS. In the last year the number of managers in the NHS has risen by 4,760 to reach 44,660 – a 12% increase on last year.

A Department of Health spokesperson said that although there had been a large percentage rise in the number of managers, overall they make up just 3.5% of the NHS workforce.

And the spokesperson insisted managers would be crucial to the department's drive to make £4.35bn of efficiency savings over the next year: 'Increases in the number of NHS managers in the past have supported the service in meeting challenging priorities, including delivering financial turnaround, record low waiting times and improved access to care.'

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley attacked the rise in managers.

'Yet again funds that are urgently needed for the frontline are being swallowed up by Labour's bureaucratic black hole,' he said.

'The day after Labour said the NHS needs to be more efficient we see that box-ticking and bureaucracy still seems to be more important to them than caring for patients. NHS funds are precious and now, more than ever, taxpayers are looking to the Government to spend them on the things that really matter.'

New figures show a record rise in the number of GPs