Fully qualified GP workforce fell by 340 over the past year

The full-time equivalent (FTE) fully-qualified GP workforce in England fell by 340 over the year to September 2019, official data show - a drop of around 1.2%.

GP consultation (Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images)

In September 2019 there were 28,315 FTE, fully-qualified GPs in England, according to NHS Digital figures, compared with 28,654 a year earlier.

The figures show that the GP workforce has continued to stagnate despite repeated government promises to increase it.

In September 2015, when then health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt promised an extra 5,000 FTE GPs by 2020/21 - a promise eventually abandoned by his successor - there were 29,403 FTE fully qualified GPs - 1,088 (4%) more than the current figure.

GP workforce

Despite the decline over the past year, however, the figures show a slight rise in the FTE fully-qualified workforce in the past three months from 28,257 in June 2019 to the 28,315 figure for September.

Expansion of GP training posts in recent years and record recruitment to GP training in 2018 and 2019 have also bolstered numbers of GP registrars in the official workforce data - with 6,547 FTE registrars in September 2019, up 11% from a year earlier.

The total count of FTE GPs in England, including registrars, rose by just under 1% over the past year to 34,862, the latest data show.

Meanwhile, headcount numbers of fully-qualified GPs show that in September 2019 there were 38,944 in England, up from 38,398 a year earlier - showing that despite rising numbers of headcount doctors in primary care, this has yet to translate into an FTE workforce increase because many are working less than full-time.

Partners lost

Numbers of GP partners in England remain in sharp decline, the figures confirm - with nearly 700 fewer doctors in partnership roles in September 2019 compared with a year earlier. In FTE terms, the drop in partners is 959 - a 5% decrease over the past year.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The long-term picture is damning, with hundreds fewer FTE, fully-qualified family doctors than we had this time last year. GP partner numbers are falling at an even faster rate, owing to the additional stresses of owning and running practices.

'Recent weeks have seen pledges from politicians about increasing GP numbers, but given that we’ve lost 1,000 GPs since we were promised 5,000 more back in 2015, much more needs to be done to make this happen.

'Unless we stop talented and experienced family doctors leaving the profession or reducing their hours, by tackling rising workload, punitive pension regulations and burdensome bureaucracy, we will only see these worrying trends continue and patients will bear the brunt.'

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