GP practices in England have lost 219 GPs in three months.
Provisional NHS England data shows that there were 33,872 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) GPs in December 2017 compared to 34,091 in September 2017 – a 0.6% decrease.
Commenting on the finding, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that this is ‘very disappointing and frustrating news’.
She continued: ‘Even a small drop in GP numbers can have a huge ripple effect on hard-working GPs, our teams and the care we are able to give to our patients.
‘GPs are currently facing intense resource pressures, and we desperately need more doctors if we stand any chance of turning this crisis around.’
Workload in practices has increased by more than 15% between 2010/11 and 2014-15, which hasn’t been ‘matched by growth in either funding or in workforce’, according to a King’s Fund (KF) analysis.
Professor Stockes-Lampard said: ‘For some, the pressure has become too much and it’s genuinely awful that some GPs are prematurely leaving a profession, which, when properly resourced and funded, can be so rewarding and fulfilling.
‘But ultimately, it’s our patients who suffer when we lose GPs and we need to make sure that, as well as retaining existing and experienced doctors, measures are taken to attract new GPs to the profession for the future.’
In the General Practice Forward View, the Government pledged to ‘increase the number of doctors in general practice by a minimum of 5,000 by 2020/21
But British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee executive team workforce lead Dr Krishna Kasaraneni argued that ‘these figures appear to show numbers going in the opposite direction’.
She added: ‘Patients are already facing long waits for appointments, and a fall in GP workforce will only make this worse.
‘Fewer trainees are choosing to enter general practice, more senior doctors are leaving the profession, and large numbers are changing the way they work in the face of systemic pressures.
‘This is clear in the 8% fall in the number of GP partners working in England since 2015.
‘Politicians must work with organisations such as the BMA to address the underlying reasons behind this recruitment and retention crisis, namely the daily struggles of managing increased workload in the face of unprecedented demand and dwindling budgets.’