The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GP partners in England fell by 1,044 between June 2019 and June 2020, according to the latest NHS Digital figures.
The data shows there were 17,467 (FTE) GP partners in June this year, compared to 18,511 last year – a 5.6% decrease. The number of (FTE) GP partners dropped by 2.5% in the last quarter alone (between March and June 2020), according to the figures.
The NHS has seen a decline in the number of (FTE) GP partners every quarter since September 2015, when there were 21,688 – 19.4% higher than the current figure, according to the data.
The latest numbers also show that 30% of (FTE) GPs are aged 55 or over, meaning many more could retire in the next few years.
In Cogora’s latest annual primary care survey, carried out prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 37% of (651) GP partners said they were considering retiring within the next year. A third (33%) said they were thinking about leaving the profession in the next five years for other reasons.
In July, NHS England opened applications to the £20,000 ‘new to partnership’ scheme for clinical staff as an incentive to boost numbers, later announcing it was ‘working on’ a plan to extend the invitation to practice managers.
Practice managers have since written an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock calling for immediate inclusion in the scheme. NHS England has not yet issued any updates to this.
The number of fully qualified, (FTE) GPs working in England also fell by 652 between June 2019 and June 2020, according to the figures.
In June this year, there were 27,605 (FTE) GPs (excluding registrars) – 2.3% fewer than there were last year (28,257). Also, in the last quarter, the number of FTE GPs fell by 380 (1.4%).
The total number of all GPs in the workforce fell from 34,114 in June 2019 to 33,515 in June 2020 (1.8%), the figures show.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Management in Practice’s sister title, Pulse, that the dwindling GP workforce is a matter of ‘serious concern’ and called on the Government to do ‘far more to value GPs and ensure general practice has the resources it needs’.