GP recruitment 'woefully inadequate', warns BMA

The government is 'simply not on course' to meet its target of recruiting an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020, the BMA has warned after official data showed a slow rise in GP numbers over the past six months.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey

Total full-time equivalent GP numbers in England rose 323 to 34,914 from 30 September 2015 to 31 March 2016, data published on Tuesday by NHS Digital show. Excluding registrars, retainers and locums, the rise was just 65.

Headcount figures show that GP numbers rose by just 108 (0.3%) to 41,985 over the past six months.

Earlier this year, official data revealed that in 2015 the full-time equivalent GP workforce declined by 2%, and this month the RCGP warned that 600 practices could be forced to close by 2020 because England faces a shortfall of 10,000 GPs by that year.

GP recruitment

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'These figures show that there has been woefully inadequate progress towards recruiting more GPs to cope with rising patient demand. The government is simply not on course to recruit the extra 5,000 GPs it promised at the last election.

'Large areas of the country are still facing shortages in staff which combined with falling budgets have left many GP practices struggling to provide even basic care to their patients. It is vital that the government urgently implements its promises to properly invest in general practice so that we can recruit and retain enough GPs to deliver the service the public deserves.'

The BMA has also hit out at reports that the updated data on general practice show that millions of so-called 'ghost patients' are on GP practice lists.

The Office of National Statistics estimates the population of England at 54.8m, but 57.3m patients were registered with GP practices on 31 March 2016.

GP list cleansing

Dr Vautrey said: 'For decades there has been debate as to whether census data or practice registration data is the most accurate. Many people who for whatever reason are reluctant to complete the census are registered with practices.

'It is also not surprising that many patients understandably take time to alter their details when they have moved home, which can commonly explain why people remain on a practice list when they have left the area. It is now also complicated by the fact that patients can now register with a GP when they live outside the practice area.

'GP practices already routinely contact patients in an effort to keep their lists up to date and it is important the public are properly informed about how to change their details. We should not rush towards an arbitrary "cleansing" system which removes patients without their consent as it is important that the public is not denied access to local GP services.'

A DH spokeswoman said: 'We now have 323 extra full-time equivalent GPs in our general practice workforce— and it's good to see that the numbers are going in the right direction.

'We know there is more work to be done- that's why we have boosted GP funding by £2.4bn through the GP Forward View, and we will continue our drive to recruit and retain more GPs.'

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