The number of fully qualified full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England has fallen by 277 over the past year, according to the latest data.
The latest NHS Digital GP workforce report showed there were 28,319 FTE GPs excluding registrars in December 2019.
This is a 1% reduction from December 2018, when the number stood at 28,596.
The new dataset also revealed that the number of FTE GP partners decreased to 18,079 – down 5.1% from last year.
When counting GPs in training, and disregarding hours worked, the workforce headcount did grow over the past year, by 3.3% from 44,396 to 45,869.
Health secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the latter statistic in a statement which also showed an overall headcount growth in the number of nurses working across the NHS.
He said: ‘I’m delighted that figures out today show that alongside a reduction in vacancies and an increase in the number of GPs, we’ve got record numbers of nurses working in our NHS – up by over 8,000 on the same time last year.
‘This Government is determined to make good on its commitments and deliver on the people’s priorities – and today’s figures show that we are doing just that.’
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive team workforce lead, said: ‘Today’s figures show a worrying continuation of the trend we’ve been seeing in recent years – with falling numbers of full-time GPs meaning there are fewer doctors trying to meet the needs of more and more patients. The continued drop of partners running practices – almost 1,000 full-time doctors in the last year – is particularly concerning.
‘This means patients waiting too long to be seen, perhaps getting increasingly unwell, as well as GPs stretching themselves more thinly, which in turn affects their health and wellbeing.’
The Conservatives pledged to recruit 6,000 more GPs over the next five years as part of their election manifesto, although previous health secretary Jeremy Hunt failed to materialise similar promises.
Dr Kasaraneni said: ‘The Government insists it will increase the number of GPs by 6,000, and if it wants to realise this ambition – and learn from mistakes of the past – it must do an awful lot more to increase recruitment and retention.’
Under the new GP contract announced earlier this month, the Government pledged to increase GP training places from 3,500 to 4,000 a year from 2021, building on the success of recent trainee recruitment.
However, earlier this month, Management in Practice’s sister publication, Pulse, revealed that despite the increase in trainees, the Government could actually have almost 2,000 fewer fully qualified FTE GPs by the start of 2024/25 than in 2019, if the current annual decrease in fully qualified FTE GP numbers continues.