The number of GPs in England only increased slightly in 2012, compounding fears that the profession is in the midst of a workforce crisis.
Official figures reveal that GP numbers increased by only 485 from 2011 – a rise of 1.2% – much lower than the average annual increase of 2.2% over the past decade.
These figures come as practitioners say they are unable to find new staff, which is leading to increasing workloads.
The NHS staff census figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, revealed that the increase in GPs was far outstripped by the 3.3% increase in the number of consultants rose by over the same period despite the Government’s stated aim of moving towards a primary care led health service.
Since 2002, the GP workforce has seen an overall increase of workers by 24.7%, whereas consultants have increased twice at quickly at 49.2%.
Experts fear these figures represent a mounting problem where students increasingly choose against pursuing careers as GPs, which is combined with increasing numbers of experienced GPs retiring early.
Dr Barry Lewis, chair of the committee of GP education directors, said: ‘Unfortunately, the figures continue to demonstrate the imbalance in recruitment and future workforce we have raised for some time.
‘If the NHS is to deliver an effective system of primary care that we know from research is the most cost effective way of delivering compassionate, safe and effective health care, we need a significant shift in career intentions and choice by those in medical school and other undergraduate health care courses.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC said the figures could be worse than suggested in the report.
‘I suspect that this is head count rather than whole time equivalent,’ he said. ‘Which means, as many new GPs are part-time, there is an even smaller rise in the GP workforce at exactly the time that practices are under huge workload pressure.’
Professor Irish, a GP in Bristol who chairs a group on workforce as part of a Government taskforce on boosting GP numbers, said any increase is better than no increase.
‘This reflects a lot of hard work on behalf of the deaneries and schools of general practice to achieve this,’ he said.
‘There is still a long way to go, clearly, before we come close to the DH target or 50% of the output of GPs going into general practice.’
Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham
You can find out more about how to protect your earnings at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers. Richard Apps, partner at RSM Tenon, will be presenting a session on how to maximise your practice income and keep an eye on your cash flow.
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