Only 100 extra GPs were added to the workforce in the last six months of 2015/16 in England, official figures have revealed, striking a blow to the Government’s aim of adding 5,000 extra GPs by 2020.
The new figures from NHS Digital reveal that the number of GPs excluding registrars, retainers and locums actually went down by eight from 30 September 2015 to 31 March 2016.
The report – which NHS Digital stresses is experimental – also reveals that the number of practices in England had decreased by 61 in those six months, while the proportion of the workforce that is female is increasing, with women now making up 52.1%.
This calls into further doubt the Government’s claim in 2014 that it will increase the numbers of GPs in the workforce by 5,000 by 2020.
GP leaders said that the figures were ‘disappointing’.
Pulse revealed earlier this year that the Government was falling short in its aims, and would need to increase the number of trainees entering the profession and decrease the speed of retirements to get anywhere the target.
The latest figures suggest that plans brought in by NHS England and Health Education England are not having the required impact.
The figures reveal:
- There was an increase of 108 (0.3%) total headcount GPs from 30 September 2015 to 31 March 2016 – now standing at 41,985;
- This represents 34,914 full-time equivalent GPs – an increase of 323 (0.9%) in that time period;
- Excluding trainees, retainers and locums, there had been a decrease of eight GPs from September 2015 to March 2016 – although it did represent an increase of 65 FTEs (0.2%);
- Around 52.1% of the GP workforce is now female – an increase from 51.9% in September 2015;
- There were 7,613 practices in England in March 2016 – a decrease of 61 from September 2015.
These latest figures are the first to take into account NHS England and Health Education England’s attempts to increase the numbers of GPs practising through their 10-point plan.
They include measures to attract medical graduates into general practice, offer incentives to work in underdoctored areas and making it easier for GPs to re-enter general practice.
The measures seem to have arrested the slide in GP numbers, but they are still far below the required rate.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ’It’s disappointing that the numbers have only increased marginally, but it’s not surprising based on the experience many junior doctors and medical students would have had of general practice over the years.
’So it will take a while to turn the ship around and to actually genuinely increase numbers, but that’s all predicated on the Forward View actually being delivered and seeing actual change in practices.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ’We now have 323 extra full time equivalent GPs in our general practice workforce— and it’s good to see that the numbers are going in the right direction.
‘We know there is more work to be done- that’s why we have boosted GP funding by £2.4billion through the GP Forward View, and we will continue our drive to recruit and retain more GPs.’