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Hancock praises ‘rise’ in GP numbers despite decline in trained FTEs

The health and social care secretary praised an ‘increase’ in the number of GPs working in the NHS, despite a decrease in the number of fully trained full-time equivalent GPs.

Statistics released yesterday by NHS Digital show that the number of full-time equivalent GPs – excluding registrars – has fallen by 576 over the past year, from 28,833 in June 2018 to 28,257 in June 2019.

The total headcount number of GPs did increase by 2.7% in a year – from 43,414 to 44,570 – while the number of FTE GPs including trainees also increased. 

Matt Hancock tweeted he was ‘delighted to see a rise in the number of doctors entering general practice across the country’.

Mr Hancock previously made similar positive statements before the Health and Social Care Committee, saying GP numbers had risen by 300 when official data showed the number of FTE GPs had dropped by 441.

In a video posted yesterday on his Twitter account, Mr Hancock said there are now ‘hundreds more GPs’ in general practice.

He said: ‘GPs are the bedrock of the NHS, and I’m delighted at the figures this morning showing a rise in the number of GPs working in the NHS right across the country.

‘There’s hundreds more GPs, other health practitioners, so nurses and physios for instance, working in primary care, making sure that we get the service to the state it deserves to be.

‘There’s an awful lot more work to do, but we’re moving in the right direction.’

Pulse has previously documented GP retention and recruitment issues in all UK nations, with public spending watchdog Audit Scotland recently warning about the ‘significant’ challenge the Government face in getting more GPs to the area.

The 2016 GP Forward View stated a minimum of 5,000 other non-GP staff will be recruited by 2020/21, including 3,000 mental health therapists and 1,500 pharmacists by 2020.

This week, Professor Martin Marshall, who takes over as RCGP chair from 23 November, told Pulse it will be a ‘big challenge’ to hire the additional primary care networks staff, given the existing struggles faced with recruiting 5,000 GPs.

The full NHS people plan, due to come out after the Government’s spending review in September, is said to outline a ‘broader strategy’ for sustainable general practice.