According to the latest general practice workforce figures published by NHS Digital, the number of FTE nurses employed in general practice in England increased by 1.8% between September 2018 and September 2019.
Meanwhile the number of FTE other staff involved in providing direct patient care, which includes clinical pharmacists, dispensers, phelbotomists, therapists, healthcare assistants and others, increased by 8% in the year to September 2019.
There are now 16,573 FTE nurses working in general practice and 13,565 FTE other staff who are providing direct patient care.
Rise in pharmacists
There has been a steep rise in the number of pharmacists working in general practice since 2015. The number of FTE pharmacists has increased from 212 in September 2015 to 1,249 in September 2019. An additional 343 FTE pharmacists were added to the workforce in the year to September 2019, representing a 37.8% increase.
The rise follows NHS England's clinical pharmacists in general practice scheme, which launched in 2017 and aimed to employ 1,500 pharmacists in GP practices by 2020/21.
Under the five-year GP contract that came into effect in April this year, that scheme ended and primary care networks (PCNs) now receive 70% funding towards the cost of employing clinical pharmacists under the contract's additional roles reimbursement scheme.
Other staff roles
In 2019/20 PCNs received funding for one clinical pharmacist and 100% funding to employ a social prescribing link worker. From April next year PCNs will receive a pot of funding based on their number of patients, worth around £215,000 to a 50,000-patient network in 2020/21, to allow them to employ pharmacists, social prescribers, first contact physiotherapists and physician associates. From April 2021 paramedics will be added to the scheme.
NHS Digital's latest figures show that at September 2019 there were just 53 FTE social prescribing link workers employed in general practice and 47 physiotherapists. Figures for social prescribing link workers are not available for the previous year. The low number of social prescribers may reflect the fact that some PCNs and practices run social prescribing initiatives in partnership with third party providers.
The number of paramedics and physician associates working in general practice increased significantly in the 12 months to September 2019. There are now 599 paramedics in general practice (up from 391 a year earlier) and 235 physician associates (up from just 93 a year earlier).
The overall number of FTE staff employed in general practice, including admin staff, increased by 3.3% in the year to September 2019 and now stands at 98,090.