The total GP headcount as of 30 June 2017 stood at 42,215, the latest workforce data show, which translates to 34,242 FTE GPs, representing a 0.9% increase since March 2017.
The slight increase follows a significant drop in the workforce late last year, which saw the number of FTE GPs fall by 445, marking slow progress against the DH's aim to recruit 5,000 additional GPs by 2020.
Despite the overall increase over the last three months, the figures show that, from April to June, 531 FTE GPs excluding locums left general practice, compared to 486 who joined – an overall deficit of 45.
But NHS Digital added that comparison using the current figures ‘should be treated with caution’ due to the currently ‘unknown seasonality effect’, given this is the first annual cycle of the quarterly GP figures.
The GP workforce statistics are compiled from data supplied by approximately 7,500 practices in England.
The figures estimate there are 2,699 locums working in general practice, the FTE of 1,006 GPs, although this is likely to be an underestimate due to the snapshot nature of the data collection.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It is disappointing that once again the latest official figures show only a marginal increase in the GP workforce in England despite repeated promises by politicians that patients would be seeing thousands more GPs trained in the UK delivering care in the NHS.
‘Many GP practices are struggling badly to provide enough appointments and basic services to the public because of endemic staff shortages. A recent BMA poll found that a third of GP practices had vacancies unfilled for more than a year.
‘We need the government to not only immediately implement in full the provisions of the GP Forward View but to go beyond this so that Health Education England (HEE), NHS England and other bodies are able to recruit and, crucially, retain GPs.
‘Far too many GPs are quitting the profession owing to the overworked and underfunded environment they are expected to work in, while medical graduates are turning their backs on a career in general practice for the same reasons.’