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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’.

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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 – final March 2016 – final September 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