Full-time GP workforce fell by 221 over the past year, revised data show

The full-time equivalent (FTE) GP workforce fell by more than 200 in the year to September 2018, revised figures show - reversing claims that GP numbers had slightly increased over the period.

Falling workforce (Photo: iStock.com/frender)
Falling workforce (Photo: iStock.com/frender)

GPonline reported last month that the overall FTE workforce appeared to have stabilised after a slight rise from 34,091 in September 2017 to 34,132 in September this year.

Updated figures published on Thursday by NHS Digital put the final FTE GP workforce figure for September 2018 at 34,205 - slightly above the provisional figure released a month ago.

However, NHS Digital estimates that if September 2017 figures were recalculated based on the current system it uses to work out numbers of GP registrars, the FTE workforce for that date would rise to 34,426 - 221 above the figure for September this year.

GP workforce

The provisional figures, which suggested a slight rise in GP numbers, had been welcomed by GP leaders. The bulk of a sharp rise in overall GP numbers in the past three months came because of an influx of 863 GP registrars - from 5,017 in June to 5,880 in September.

This is almost double the increase in registrars over the same period in 2017, suggesting that growing numbers of GP trainees are beginning to filter through into the workforce.

The number of FTE GPs excluding registrars, retainers and locums remained static across the three months to September 2018 - rising fractionally from 27,429 to 27,435 - and fell by more than 400 (1.4%) compared to the same time last year.

Partners

Meanwhile, numbers of FTE partners remain in freefall - dropping by more than 4% from 19,608 in June to 19,387 in September. This means that a total of 221 GP partners has left the workforce in just three months.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said last month: 'We applaud the efforts by NHS England and Health Education England that have gone into encouraging medical students to choose general practice, something the college has been heavily involved in, and we now have more GPs in training than ever before.

'But it takes a long time to train a GP and we still need to see urgent initiatives implemented to retain our existing GPs, and to address the unsustainable workload family doctors and our teams are facing on a daily basis.'

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