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Number of fully-qualified FTE GPs drops by 651 in a year

The number of fully-qualified, full-time-equivalent GPs working in England has dropped by 651 from June 2019 to June 2020, the latest official figures show.

Data released today by NHS Digital show there were 27,605 FTE GPs (excluding registrars) on 30 June this year – 2.3% fewer than the same date last year, when the figure stood at 28,256.

The number of fully-qualified FTE GPs in England has also fallen in the last quarter. In March there were 27,985 – a drop of 1.4% in three months.

The figures also show that the total headcount of all GPs has also fallen by 1.2% in a year.

Meanwhile, the number of fully-qualified permanent GPs – excluding both registrars and locums – has also dropped by 1.9% compared with last year and 1.3% compared with last quarter.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that the dwindling GP workforce is a matter of ‘serious concern’ and called on the Government to do ‘far more to value GPs and ensure general practice has the resources it needs’.

He said: ‘The prolonged and continued decline in the number of FTE GPs in England is a matter of serious concern, but this data is hardly surprising when we consider the immense pressures family doctors are under across the country – both now and long before the pandemic hit.

‘Before Covid-19, GPs were contending with chronic underfunding, rising patient demand and toppling workloads – all of which has been exacerbated by the virus, with many surgeries going above the call of duty to keep patients safe.

He added: ‘This further drop of 1.4% FTE GPs since March speaks for itself and yet despite the clear need to do more to attract and retain more GPs, the Government have just undermined morale further by failing to use the DDRB recommendations to recognise the incredible work GPs and their teams have done during the pandemic.

‘While the schemes that we have recently succeeded in introducing, such as the partnership premium, the GP fellowship scheme and the expansion of GP training places may help in the longer term, much more needs to be done to turn these figures around.’

It comes as the Government announced last month that GP trainee numbers in England have risen by 15% to reach ‘record-breaking’ numbers.

But Pulse revealed this week that a cut to reimbursement of practices’ visa sponsorship costs could lead to new GPs ‘leaving the country’.

It comes as NHS England published its NHS People Plan last month, which said building on the ‘flexible working changes’ brought about by Covid-19 would be ‘crucial’ for retaining staff across the NHS.

Earlier this month, NHS England also outlined plans for locum GPs to be offered ‘highly flexible’ salaried roles in a bid to bring them into the substantive GP workforce.

Last year, the Government pledged to create 50 million more GP appointments per year by bringing 6,000 new doctors to general practice by 2024/25 – including by improving international recruitment.

But a major Pulse analysis earlier this year found that more must be done for the Government to successfully meet its targets.

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