General practice is losing 100 partners a month, official data show

The number of GP partners in England fell by more than 300 in the three months to June 2018 alone, the latest general practice workforce data reveal.

GP consultation (Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages)
GP consultation (Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages)

From March to June 2018, numbers of GP partners in England fell sharply from 22,593 to 22,285 - a drop of 308 partners in total.

The three-month drop maintains a steady decline that has seen the total number of GP partners fall by 2,541 since former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to increase the workforce by 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs in September 2015.

Partner numbers have fallen by just over 10% since September 2015, far outstripping the decline of just over 4% in the full-time equivalent GP workforce as a whole.

GPonline reported on Thursday that since the 5,000-GP pledge was made, the total full-time equivalent workforce has instead dropped by more than 1,400 - with more than 500 GPs lost to the profession in the March-June period alone.

Since September 2015, an average of 77 partners per month have been lost to the profession, while general practice lost 700 GP partners in 2017 alone.

GP leaders described the figures as ‘very concerning' and called for the health and social care secretary to deliver on his pledge to prioritise the workforce by delivering increased investment.

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GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Rather than seeing any progress in addressing the GP recruitment crisis as promised by the government, the situation is in fact getting worse. The continued decline in the number of GPs across the country is placing extreme pressure on practices and on GPs who are already working above and beyond to meet growing patient demand.’

A combination of rising workload and falling pay have led to a marked decline in the number of GPs choosing partnership roles in recent years, leading to former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt launching an independent review of the partnership model in February this year.

GP partnership model

The review, led by Wessex LMCs chief Dr Nigel Watson, is looking at how the partnership model needs to evolve to meet the needs of a modern NHS.

In an interview with GPonline earlier this year Dr Watson said: 'General practice won't survive if we can't recruit enough GPs. It can’t carry on with a reduced workforce. Even those that want to go into partnership don’t necessarily want things as they are at the moment. To retain older doctors and attract younger ones, we have to make it a job worth doing – but many say workload is uncontrolled, they are working 14- to 16-hour days trying to get the work done.'

Dr Vautrey added: ‘Given the low morale among GPs as well as the wider NHS workforce, and the government’s failed promises to deliver on GP recruitment, the new health secretary must deliver on his pledge to prioritise the workforce by delivering the necessary investment and action required to see a tangible change.’

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