The number of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England fell to 27,659 in October 2021 - down 40 from the previous month.
The drop comes as GP practices are managing unprecedented workload - delivering more than 30m appointments in October, rising to almost 34m once COVID-19 vaccinations are factored in - and as the profession prepares to take part in an accelerated vaccination drive amid fears over the rapid rise in Omicron cases.
BMA estimates suggest that the fully-qualified FTE GP workforce has dropped by 1,744 over the past six years - leaving the average GP in England caring for an extra 300 patients.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Farah Jameel said: 'These figures further underline the extent of the workforce crisis blighting general practice in England - fewer GPs, ultimately means fewer family doctors able to provide patients with the care they need. In the last six years, we’ve lost the equivalent of 1,744 full-time, fully qualified GPs - with 40 more having now left the workforce in the last month.
'All GPs and their teams want to be able to provide is the best care that meets their patients’ needs, but with such a depleted workforce they are increasingly unable to meet complexity and demand in a way that is timely, effective and ultimately, safe – for patients or themselves.'
Dr Jameel warned that practice teams were working 'harder than ever before'. But she added: 'The fewer doctors we have, the more they are expected to take on between them, and by doing so push themselves further into exhaustion. This is not sustainable.
'The last 20 months have seen GPs go to incredible lengths for their patients. We are committed to working with government and policymakers to create and deliver solutions that focus on recruiting, training, and retaining doctors who have the energy and time needed to provide the highest quality of care for our patients.'
The data from NHS Digital also reveal the significant shift over the past six years in the proportion of GPs in partnership and salaried roles.
In October 2021 just 53% of headcount GPs were in partnership roles, the data suggest - compared with 68% in September 2015.
The proportion in salaried roles rose from less than a quarter to 41%, while locums grew from 4% of the total workforce to 5% - although questions remain over how well the data reflect the true extent of the locum workforce, with some experts saying the figure is a huge underestimate.