The Prime Minister was asked to address the GP shortage and workload issue in Prime Minister’s Questions today, following Pulse’s workload survey results.
In a question asked by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Prime Minister Theresa May was asked if it was ‘acceptable’ that one in three patients were turned away from needing an urgent same day GP appointment due to the shortage of GPs.
Mr Corbyn mentioned the results from Pulse’s recent workload survey, which revealed that over half of GPs say they are working above safe limits.
He said: ‘If you go to any A+E department in the country, you find they’re under enormous pressure precisely because there is a shortage of GPs to see people in the first place. The conservative Secretary of State, whilst promoting private GP services at the same time is overseeing the biggest drop in NHS GPs for 50 years. One in ten GPs are now seeing twice as many patients as it is safe for them to do so. That is the pressure they are under.’
In response, the Prime Minister said there were more GPs in the NHS now than in 2015.
According to NHS Digital statistics, the headcount of GPs has increased since 2015, but the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs has not.
In September 2015, there was a headcount of 41,230 GPs, compared to 44,396 in December 2018 – the latest figure available from NHS Digital.
The FTE number, however, dropped slightly from 2015 to 2018, from 34,262 FTE GPs working in general practice to 34,510 as of December – a difference of 248.
In the Commons, the Prime Minister said: ‘We recognise that GPs are a vital part of the NHS, and there are actually more GPs in the NHS today than in 2015. But we’ve also made it easier for people to access their GPs by ensuring that GP surgeries are open for more days of the week so people can have that better access.
‘We’re incentivizing GP trainees to work in hard to recruit areas and making it easier and quicker for qualified doctors to return to the NHS. Under our NHS long-term plan, we will see for the first time in its 70 year history, the proportion of funding for primary medical and community care as a percentage of the NHS budget increasing.‘
This article was updated to reflect NHS Digital’s revised workforce figures for 2015.