One GP vacancy for every two practices in England, official data suggest

One GP post was vacant for every two practices in England in the six months to September 2016, official data suggest.

A total of 430 GP vacancies were reported from April to September 2016 by 866 GP practices that returned data, official statistics published by NHS Digital show - roughly one vacancy for every two practices.

The findings - which should be treated with caution because of the relatively low response rate - also show that 256 (60%) of these vacancies were unfilled for more than three months.

The vacancy rate for the entire 2015/16 financial year was slightly higher, with 694 vacancies reported by 1,295 practices - roughly one vacancy for every 1.9 practices. A total of 64%of these vacancies were unfilled for more than three months, the data show.

GP workforce

The figures emerged as GP leaders warned on Wednesday that the crisis facing general practice was deepening, after workforce statistics showed that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs fell by 445 (1.3%) in the final three months of 2016. The decline came on top of a 100-FTE GP drop in the general practice workforce over the year to September 2016.

The 866 GP practices that responded for April to September 2016 also reported 291 nurse vacancies, 99 vacancies for other staff involved in direct patient care, and 497 vacances for administrative or non-clinical staff.

A BMA poll published in December 2016 warned that one in three practices were operating with 'permanent holes' in their workforce because they had been unable to fill vacancies over the previous 12 months, while a further one in five practices reported that they had been able to recruit a GP only after a three- to six-month wait.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned at the time: 'Only a small number of GP practices are operating with no vacancies, while the vast majority of GP services are suffering from constant shortages of GPs. It is clear that the crisis is so bad that general practice is being kept afloat by the essential help of locums who are stepping in to provide day-to-day services to patients.'

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