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Number of qualified full-time equivalent GPs falls by 1.2% in 12 months

by Anviksha Patel
28 November 2019

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The number of fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs in England has dropped by almost 400 in the past year, new data from NHS Digital has shown.

Official figures show there were 28,315 full-time equivalent GPs (excluding registrars) in September 2019, 399 (1.2%) lower than September 2018, when there were 28,654.

There has been a decrease of 1,088 fully-qualified FTE GPs since September 2015, when former health secretary Jeremy Hunt made his pledge to increase GP numbers by 5,000.

Current health secretary Matt Hancock has said he would increase the number of GPs by 6,000 – including trainees – by 2023/24 if the Conservatives win a majority in next month’s general election.

The figures also show:

  • The number of FTE GP partners also decreased to 18,303 – a 5% drop from last year.
  • In the last quarter, the number of FTE GP registrars has increased to 6,547, up 690 since June.
  • The headcount of all GPs has increased by 2.8% in a year – from 44,378 to 45,625.

‘Damning’ long-term picture

The statistics also show the number of GP practices holding GMS, PMS and APMS contracts.

Since March, the number of GP practices with APMS contracts has risen by 16% to 143 practices, while the number of GMS contracts held has decreased by 2.3% to 4,848.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘[We have] falling GP numbers and the long-term picture is damning, with hundreds fewer full-time equivalent, fully-qualified family doctors than we had this time last year. GP partner numbers are falling at an even faster rate, owing to the additional stresses of owning and running practices.

‘Recent weeks have seen pledges from politicians about increasing GP numbers, but given that we’ve lost 1,000 GPs since we were promised 5,000 more back in 2015, much more needs to be done to make this happen.’

He added: ‘Unless we stop talented and experienced family doctors leaving the profession or reducing their hours, by tackling rising workload, punitive pension regulations and burdensome bureaucracy, we will only see these worrying trends continue and patients will bear the brunt.’

The upcoming final People Plan is due to outline NHS England’s workforce strategy for primary care, but currently has no set date for publication.

Party pledges

Meanwhile, other political parties have included pledges to increase the GP workforce, if they are elected in the upcoming general election.

Labour promised to train an extra 1,500 GPs a year, in addition to £2.5 billion to ‘overhaul’ primary care premises.

The Lib Dems pledged to end the GP shortfall by 2024/25 by maintaining freedom of movement by remaining in the EU and training more GPs.