The drive to recruit and retain GPs must not let up a senior doctor said after latest figures revealed an “incredibly serious” 1.9%drop in the number of GPs working in England.
The number of GPs has dropped from 34,700 full time equivalent (FTE) between 2014 and 2015 to 34,100, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
The report also saw a reduction in direct patient care staff and administrators and an increase in nurses.
The figures have been released in the General and Personal Medical Services, England report 2005-2015, provisional, experimental statistics.
For the first time the statistics from the HSCIC also include the number of locums, which increase the number of full time equivalent GPs to 34,600.
Data is now taken directly from GP practices, instead of from a census.
This is still below the estimated 34,700 GPs working in England in 2014.
Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary for the Royal College of GPs said: “With our growing and ageing population, with more and more of our patients living with multiple and long-term conditions, any drop in the GP workforce is incredibly serious.
“General practice makes 90% of all NHS patient contacts. GPs and our teams are making at least 60 million more patient consultations a year than we were five years ago, but over the same period our workforce has not risen in step with demand – and we have also seen a decline in resources for our service.”
He said it was essential to build on the drive to recruit more GPs and the government’s plan to increase the general practice workforce outlined in NHS England’s GP Forward View published last week.
“We need to continue to do whatever we can to recruit more GPs, urgently implement plans to retain existing ones, and make it easier for trained family doctors to return to practice in the UK following a career break or period working abroad,” said Mathers.
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