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New data claiming GP workforce growth ‘disingenuous gaslighting’, says BMA

New data claiming GP workforce growth ‘disingenuous gaslighting’, says BMA

Official figures showing the GP workforce has increased over the last 12 months have been dismissed as ‘disingenuous’ by the BMA.

New data from NHS Digital suggested the 34,726 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs working in June indicated a 4.2% rise on the 33,329 figure from June 2020.

But the statistics, published in a monthly format for the first time, have been rejected by frontline GPs who insist the primary care workforce is still struggling to cope with long-term staff shortages.

Responding to the figures, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Today’s GP workforce data is disingenuous and fails to accurately reflect the staffing shortages that we, and thousands of doctors across England, know are facing primary care – and have been for at least a decade.

‘The methodology NHS Digital is now using no longer includes estimated data to accommodate for the small proportion of practices that upload no or only partial workforce figures each quarter. As a result, this makes it look like the decrease in the GP workforce is less than the actual reality shown across previous datasets.’

According to Dr Vautrey, it is ‘clear that the change in methodology was designed to obscure the reality’, with the data release ‘now less accurate’ and ‘simply’ not capturing ‘what we know to be happening on the ground’.

He added: ‘The workforce crisis has been at the centre of GP pressures for over a decade, so to play down the reality of it is not only incredibly frustrating, but also insulting to the thousands of GPs who experience the impact that workforce shortages are having on their profession, and patients, every day.

‘We can’t make improvements without understanding the extent of the problem, which is why NHS Digital must be allowed to revert to its original methodology as a matter of urgency.

‘We’re already losing talented, experienced GPs to the workforce crisis – attempting to gaslight them into believing it’s not real is only going to drive more away.’

An NHS Digital spokesperson said: ‘NHS Digital is the trusted data provider for the NHS in England. We publish data in a clear and impartial way to provide the best possible insights to improve health and care services.

‘We have worked in close partnership with stakeholders in order to refine our methodology for the GP workforce statistics. This has included removing historic estimates of workforce numbers to improve accuracy.

‘We are committed to continuously improving our data services and to supporting GP practices to provide high-quality, reliable data to further enhance the completeness of the GP workforce statistics.’

A GP in the south of England said: ‘I’m a partner and in the past year I have lost a partner to early retirement and two partners to periods of sick leave due to the stress of the job.

‘You cannot talk about workforce in general practice without also talking about workload. We simply do not have enough GPs to cope with ever-expanding patient demand. Our funding assumes three patient contacts per annum for every patient on our list. We are currently running around seven per annum.

‘I have asked a couple of our salaried GPs who I think have the right stuff to be partners whether this is something they would consider but their response is always the same –  they see how hard we’re working and do not want to subject themselves to the same ever increasing workload.”

Another, in the southwest, said: ‘I have just got home from another 13-hour day. There is a vicious cycle happening with our poor workforce numbers nationally.

‘Every time a GP reduces their hours or quits, or a post is unfilled, the strain on the remaining GPs increases.

‘That leads to more GPs leaving. We can’t keep doing this. So many of us are at breaking point.’

Another GP, based in the north of England, said: ‘The Government says that there are more staff working in primary care, funded through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme – this may be true, but they are not reducing the work on GPs; if anything they are only assisting with otherwise unmet need.

‘The GP partner workforce is decreasing – I know of colleagues and practices where colleagues are either retiring early or leaving for work elsewhere.’

The latest figures were published after the RCGP warned an emergency rescue package was needed if patients were to get the care they need once the pandemic is over.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that the job of GPs was ‘largely undoable’ even before Covid-19 but that general practice had now reached ‘breaking point’.

He called on new health secretary Sajid Javid and the incoming NHS England boss Amanda Pritchard to ‘save’ general practice by implementing a five-point recovery plan to prevent GPs and other members of the practice team from burning out and ensure patients can continue to receive the care they need, well into the future.

Professor Marshall said: ‘The launch of our five point action plan sends out an SOS for general practice – and crucially, it also provides realistic solutions for halting the crisis and protecting the care of our patients and the wider NHS by investing in the hardworking GPs and their teams who provide that care.’

The Department for Health and Social Care insisted £270m had been invested to expand GP capacity to ensure practices could handle the increased demands and recovery pressures as a result of Covid-19 on top of  the £1.5 billion for extra staff committed for general practices until 2023/24.

A spokeswoman said the current financial year had seen the highest ever number of doctors accepting a place to train as a GP and that the DHSC was committed to increasing the number of training places available to 4,000 a year.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Philip Cox 5 August, 2021 5:34 pm

30 years ago, the number of GPS was said to be 33000.
Ageing population, medical developments, part time working etc. We many more than 33000 now!

terry sullivan 5 August, 2021 7:12 pm

what is dangerous gaslighting?

Vinci Ho 6 August, 2021 5:26 am

Ok , I am trying NOT to be sentimental reading these figures in this early hours of a day 😑 ( before going in my surgery until 19:00 tonight, at least 👿):
(1) Simon (Osbourne), while a single 4.2% rise in FTE working GPs meant relatively little , can you elaborate on exactly what NHS Digital had concluded out of this publication?
I am conscious that some would be sensitive to the methodology they adopted as well .
(2) Pulse also reported in another article right now that the GP appointment waiting times were reduced by around half(but still 7-8 days). If that is also reflective of the ‘truth’ by any chance , what can you draw from this : a rise of 4.2% in FTE working GPs and patients are waiting 50% less to have a contact with his/her own GPs ?
(3) Well , I would say the answer is simple :
(a) GPs are one of the most value for money professionals compared with others in the realm of NHS .
And they conduct themselves with a moral compass running risks to work beyond limits in a historic moment
(b) The improvisation and flexibility to adapt by GPs ,working during a pandemic plus delivering 75% of all the Covid vaccination in the same period (considering ages under 18 are only around 20% of the whole population), is at the strength deserving a Gold Medalist.
(c) The interpretation of GP surgeries ‘not open’ by the media egregiously underpinned by NHS England , more or less within this study period of GP workforce(from June 2020) , was then totally illogical and nonsensical. I suppose that these 4.2% increased number of FTE GPs were otherwise playing video games or twiddling fingers behind shut surgeries ?🤨😈
(4)But most importantly, while all these figures should be subjected to cross examinations , it begs the question for the government:
Is that really enough for the government to support GPs (providing resources )by merely increasing the number of FTE GPs of a negligible 4.2% during a historic disaster ?
(5)If the narrative is always about increasing 6000 FTE GPs( different politicians with different numbers👿) , dividing this by the current total quoted by NHS Digital , 34,726, gives you a significant 17.2% . The government should be so bloody ashamed of itself of just 4.2% in the middle of this devastating pandemic.👿

Call me biased and narcissistic, I think the answers are already written on the wall 😎

Vinci Ho 6 August, 2021 6:07 am

… at the strength deserving a Gold Medal .

David jenkins 6 August, 2021 10:49 am

some years ago, the welsh government did a similar survey, presumably to try and fool the general population (i.e. the electorate), that all was well, and there were plenty of gp’s waiting to serve anyone who wanted to be fed.

they concluded the number of gp’s was adequate, and was, in fact, going up.

at the time, i was locumming in 13 different surgeries – so i was counted 13 times !

i know wales is a (supposedly) different country, but the politicians are from the same mould – lying, devious, and dishonest, so i imagine a similar scam has been used to generate this latest “data” !

if you filled in your tax return like this, you’d be up before the beak in record time !

John Graham Munro 6 August, 2021 12:07 pm

David Jenkins——–careful—our Moderator is very sensitive these days——–he threatened to ban me on Monday

David Banner 7 August, 2021 9:52 am

For decades GPs replaced GPs, the majority of whom were full time partners.
But in the 21st century GPs are increasingly part time salaried or locum. And they are as rare as rocking horse poo.
Out of necessity or desperation, facing the bankruptcy of unlimited liability, surviving GP partners have plugged the gaps with ANPs, PAs, pharmacists etc., and whilst many of these people are superb, they are not doctors. The buck stops with the GP.
In the future the model of the “Consultant GP” overseeing their team of noctors will have been refashioned and streamlined to make the job bearable, but for the current generation of (mainly ageing) surviving partners it is the worst of both worlds.

John Graham Munro 7 August, 2021 12:28 pm

What exactly does DISINGENUOUS GASLIGHTING mean?——throughout the pandemic words have been resurrected by politicians to mislead the public—-I often have to look up their original meaning—-(When I use a word, it means precisely what I choose it to mean —–Humpty Dumpty to Alice——Lewis Carrol)
Recently, I was called a ”serial troll” by one of you——however the term is not as derogatory as I originally thought—-and by the way, the opposite is ”pixie”—–not a lot of people know that

David Mummery 7 August, 2021 9:13 pm

The vocation of General Practice really needs re-building. GPs are doctors. They should see patients. If GPs just become ‘GP managers’ just overseeing less qualified HCPs seeing the patients , the vocation and profession really is dead..

Patrufini Duffy 9 August, 2021 11:07 pm

As society and minds fall apart, you are being moulded by profiteering narcissists.