The GP workforce is not growing quickly enough to cope with current or future demand, the BMA has warned in response to the latest workforce statistics.
Newly published figures up to March 2021 show a slight 0.4% increase in fully qualified GPs at 28,096 – 111 more than in March 2020.
For all GPs, including registrars, there has been a 2.8% increase in full-time equivalent numbers in the past year, the data from NHS Digital shows.
But the trend in declining GP partners continued with full-time equivalent numbers dropping from 17,910 in March 2020 to 17,003 in March 2021.
It follows a Pulse investigation which found almost 100 practices were left to close in 2020 amid the Covid crisis.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said: ‘With the equivalent of just 111 more full-time, fully-qualified GPs joining the health service between March 2020 and March 2021 – an increase of just 0.4% – today’s data is yet another stark reminder of the ongoing workforce crisis currently facing the NHS.’
He added: ‘In fact, the overall GP workforce has barely grown since 2015, and the number of GP partners has actually fallen by the equivalent of more than 900 full-time doctors in the most recent 12 months, so efforts to retain these experienced and talented members of staff should be treated with just as much importance as encouraging new GPs into the NHS.
Figures from a recent BMA survey suggest that more than half of respondents working in a primary care setting said that they plan to work fewer hours in the next year, with a further 36% wanting to leave the health service altogether and take early retirement, he pointed out.
Dr Kasaraneni said: ‘We know that much of this is linked to personal wellbeing – doctors across the NHS have been pushed to their limits this past year, with many struggling to get the respite they need following the demands of the pandemic.
‘For some, this has led to them becoming unwell and feeling disillusioned with a job they once loved. Almost 50% of doctors respondents to our recent Covid-19 tracker survey told us they are currently suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or another mental health condition.’
In 2015, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020/21, which was superseded by a target of 6,000 by 2024 – a promise that must now be kept, Dr Kasaraneni said.
‘Without the workforce we need, especially as we look to the growing backlog, the future of the NHS hangs in the balance – and patients will continue to wait too long for the care they need.’