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Fully qualified FTE GP workforce falls by 2% in 12 months

by Anviksha Patel
30 August 2019

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The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England has fallen by 576 over the past year, new figures from NHS Digital have shown.

Official statistics show there were 28,257 fully qualified FTE GPs (excluding registrars) in June 2019 – 2% lower than June 2018 which had 28,833.

The figures also show:

  • In the last quarter, the number of FTE GPs had also fallen. In March, there were 28,697 GPs in England – a fall of 1.5% in three months.
  • The number of FTE GP partners also decreased to 18,511 – down 5.3% from last year.
  • However, the headcount of all GPs has increased by 2.7% in a year – from 43,414 to 44,570.

Stark illustration of workforce crisis

BMA GP committee executive committee workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: ‘These statistics are a stark illustration of the workforce crisis that continues to blight general practice. In the face of high workloads, punitive pension regulations and the overly burdensome admin that comes with running a practice, it is no surprise that the number of GPs, and in particular partners, is continuing to fall. This is despite repeated pledges from the Government to boost numbers by thousands.

‘GP practices are working more closely together now, and with expanded healthcare teams so that patients receive the most appropriate and timely care possible – and we hope this will go some way to alleviate some of the workload pressure placed on doctors.

‘And while the number of trainees choosing family medicine is rising, crucially general practice needs to become a more attractive career for those already working within it. The Government must value the workforce, both by increasing resources and scrapping damaging pension rules that are forcing hard-working GPs to retire or reduce hours before they both want and need to.’

Escalating demand

RCGP vice chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Demand for GP services is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity. Paired with falling workforce numbers, it creates a perfect storm that is leaving GPs stressed, burnt out, and leaving the profession earlier than planned – and our patients waiting much longer for an appointment than they should have to.’ 

Since the last figures were published, the NHS released its interim workforce plan – named the people plan – which committed to promoting portfolio careers and a voluntary two-year fellowship for newly qualified GPs in a bid to make general practice ‘more attractive’.

The full NHS people plan will come out after the Government’s spending review and is said to outline a ‘broader strategy’ for sustainable general practice.