GPs per patient down 2.2% in a year as practices deliver 26m appointments in July

GPs per patient in England dropped by 2.2% in the year to July 2022 as the workforce shrank and patient numbers grew - while practices delivered 26m appointments in July alone.

(Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

Fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs in England dropped from 27,750 in July 2021 to 27,507 in July 2022 - a drop of 0.9%, figures from NHS Digital show.

Numbers of patients registered with GP practices rose from just under 61m to 61.8m over the same period, taking GPs per 100,000 patients from around 45.5 down to 44.5 - a 2.2% fall.

Data on GP appointments show that practices delivered a total of 26m appointments in July this year excluding COVID-19 vaccinations - up by around 110,000 compared with July 2021 - and up more than 5% compared with July 2019, before the pandemic. Around two thirds of appointments were delivered face-to-face.

GP workforce

The figures came as BMA leaders warned that a 'premature' decision from the government to pause routine asymptomatic COVID-19testing of NHS staff could leave staff and patients at increased risk - and add to pressure on the workforce.

GPonline analysis revealed earlier this year that the mismatch between patients and the GP workforce was growing fast in parts of England, with a 4% rise in patients per GP in some integrated care system areas within just a five-month period from December 2021 to April 2022.

The latest figures show that numbers of GP partners have continued to fall rapidly in England - with the number of FTE GP partners down by 320 in the year to July 2022. FTE GP partners fell by 1.9% over the past year - more than twice the drop among all fully qualified GPs.

Salaried GPs are up 3.1% compared with 12 months ago to 9,764, and the number of GP trainees in England in July 2022 was up 13.1% compared with a year earlier to 7,750.

Sustained decline

The decline in the total GP workforce over the past year maintains a steady trend. In the five years from June 2017 to June 2022, general practice lost 1,554 FTE fully-qualified GPs - a drop of 5.3% - analysis by GPonline shows.

The BMA warned earlier this year that time was running out to reverse the 'sustained decline' in the GP workforce.

Commenting on the latest figures, BMA GP committee workforce policy lead Dr Samira Anane said: 'Today’s figures are a reminder of the huge challenges staff and patients are facing; there are fewer and fewer GPs to manage and meet the ever-increasing volume of appointments they’re providing.

'In July, practices in England booked 110,000 more non-COVID-vaccination appointments than a year before, despite losing the equivalent of around 250 full-time, fully-qualified GPs. In the most recent month alone, we have lost the equivalent of 51 full-time, fully qualified GPs in England. This is the same as 114,000 patients having lost a GP in their local practice, meaning the remaining GPs take on more responsibility as they try to best meet their needs.

'Combined with punitive pension taxation rules, this unsustainable workload and the impact this has on personal wellbeing, is driving committed family doctors away from general practice or forcing them to change their working patterns. Without action, more doctors will leave, repeating the vicious cycle where both staff and patients bear the brunt.'

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