The number of full-time equivalent GPs in England decreased by 1,200 from September 2016 to September 2017, official figures have revealed.
The official NHS Digital statistics also revealed that the total number of GPs decreased by 541 over the same period.
They also show a decrease of 1,300 FTE GPs since September 2015 – when the Government set its target to recruit 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, meaning ministers have gone backwards in their attempts to reach the figure.
The target was announced in June 2015, as part of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ’new deal’, with a pledge to increase the GP workforce by 5,000 FTE GPs by 2020.
However, FTE GP numbers have been constantly falling ever since, with the Government now having to find 6,300 more GPs by 2020 to meet its target.
NHS England announced earlier in the year that it is looking to recruit 3,000 GPs from overseas in a bid to help reach the target – despite Mr Hunt’s original aim specifying these extra GPs would be ’trained and retained’ by the NHS.
The figures also reveal that the NHS has lost 1,600 GPs since the release of the GP Forward View in April 2016, which was designed to boost recruitment.
The plans developed by NHS England involved an uplift in total GP funding of £2.4bn a year by 2020, and a separate package of £500m to implement immediate measures to support general practice.
This included measures to incentivise GPs to move to the areas hardest hit by the recruitment crisis, to incentivise GPs to stay in practice if they were considering leaving, and to smooth the process to re-enter UK general practice.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, the BMA GP Committee’s lead on workforce issues, said: ’The BMA has successfully lobbied the Government to invest more in general practice, with £500 million of recurrent, extra funding guaranteed in talks earlier this year to help alleviate the pressures on overstretched GP services.
‘But general practice still faces a stark workforce crisis with too many GPs retiring early and too few entering the profession, leaving many GP practices struggling, despite their best efforts, to provide enough appointments to patients. This latest fall in GP numbers demonstrates that the Government needs to work with organisations like the BMA to ensure we have a coherent workforce plan that gives GP services the capacity to meet rising levels of patient demand.’