There were over 18,200 more people working in general practice as of March 2022, compared with the same month in 2019, the Government has claimed.
This number includes pharmacists, mental health practitioners, nursing and physician associates, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists and social prescribing link workers.
The government has said this figure shows it is ‘on track’ to deliver its manifesto commitment of 26,000 more primary care staff through the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) by March 2024.
It comes after claims by the RCGP in January that the government was not on track to meet its manifesto pledge without stepping up effort to fill roles. In September 2021, an estimated 9,464 roles had been filled across PCNs.
However, by December 2021, NHS England reported that the figure was at 16,000.
Health secretary, Sajid Javid, said he was grateful for the ‘tireless work of GPs and primary care staff’ and that his department was working closely with the NHS to continue building the workforce and tackle the Covid backlog.
‘With over 18,200 more primary care staff already, we are on track to deliver 26,000 more by 2024, backed by record funding to help increase capacity and get patients the care they need more quickly,’ he said.
While welcoming this announcement that more primary care staff are available, Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation warned that there are still shortages, making it difficult to cope with rising demand.
‘Primary care leaders have worked hard to bolster recruitment to their local networks as they appreciate the huge potential these new roles can play in ensuring patient get the right care at the right time and in the right place for them.’
However, she added: ‘There must be a greater acceptance that there are simply not enough staff currently available to keep up with rising demand from patients who are presenting with more complex needs. Continued flexibility for how the additional roles can be filled, alongside support for leaders to help embed them into their teams, will be vital.
‘The need for a fully funded, system-focused workforce strategy is once again, abundantly clear and is striking in its absence.’
In April, PCNs were advised to ‘grow their own’ ARRS staff to help address recruitment challenges by the BMA’s GP Committee deputy chair in England, Dr Kieran Sharrock.
Dr Sharrock also said in March that every GP practice should ‘realistically’ close its list due to the workload pressures general practice is facing.