The number of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England is continuing to drop, with the BMA warning the development is both unsafe and unsustainable.
The latest GP workforce data showed there were 27,647 fully-qualified, FTE GPs in November 2021, which has dropped by 52 from 27,699 in September 2021.
In the six months between June and November, over 100 fully-qualified FTE GPs have been lost, the official data revealed.
The total number of FTE GPs has dropped by 284 from 36,275 in September 2021 to 35,991 in November.
Between September and November 2021, the headcount of GP partners has decreased by 154, while the headcount of salaried GPs has increased by 164.
The headcount of GPs in training has also decreased by 221 over the quarter, and the headcount of GP regular locums is down by 155.
BMA GP Committee deputy chair Dr Kieran Sharrock said: ‘Since September 2015, when the Government first pledged to recruit an additional 5,000 GPs, England has lost the equivalent of more than 1,750 full-time, fully qualified family doctors, with more than 300 being lost in the last year alone.
‘This means the remaining GPs are now on average caring for 2,222 patients – this is around 300 more than they were [in] 2015, and is significantly more than GPs in similar countries.
‘Therefore, the loss of family doctors in the last year is the equivalent of more than 700,000 patients losing “their GP”.’
GP numbers September-November 2021
|FTE fully-qualified GPs||27,699||27,659||27,647||-52|
|Headcount fully-qualified GPs||37,138||37,043||37,010||-128|
|FTE GP partners||16,922||16,823||16,794||-128|
|FTE salaried GPs||9,678||9,776||9,815||+137|
|FTE GPs in training||8,576||8,459||8,344||-232|
|FTE GP regular locums||848||811||791||-57|
Dr Sharrock added: ‘Doing more with fewer staff is not safe and not sustainable. Most recently we’ve seen practices pulling out all the stops so they can help deliver the booster and vaccine campaign – but this has meant re-prioritising other care. Sadly, and amid pressures across the whole NHS system, we recognise this results in patients waiting longer for the care they need.
‘Unfortunately, we cannot do everything for everyone all of the time. Staff are exhausted, burnt out and putting their own health at risk – which threatens to make the problem far worse. There is then the further impact of absence caused by Omicron in recent weeks – and we cannot afford to lose any more valuable staff at this crucial time.’
BMA GPC chair Dr Farah Jameel said the situation was ‘not sustainable’ after NHS Digital’s previous dataset showed the continued decline of GP numbers.
Further worsening the workforce crisis, GP practices are struggling with Covid staff absences, with 95% experiencing much higher levels of staff off sick than usual.
Fire and rescue and police forces were among the extra workforce stood up to support GPs to deliver the accelerated Covid booster programme.
And a High Court ruling against Dr Philip Mitchell last month was said to have put young doctors off a career in general practice.
Its inquiry into how the NHS could tackle the care backlog following the pandemic already determined workforce was the major obstacle.