More than 29,000 additional staff are now working in general practice according to NHS England figures released last week but the RCGP warns GP figures have ‘gone backwards’.
The data showed that there are 29,103 additional full-time equivalent (FTE) staff working in primary care as of March 2023 compared with March 2019.
The new hires include 26,877 hired by primary care networks through the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS). New recruits include 6,331 FTE pharmacists, 5,507 FTE care coordinators, 3,433 social prescribing link workers, 2,124 pharmacy technicians, as well as podiatrists and first contact physiotherapists and many others.
The latest figures mean that the Government has delivered on its manifesto commitment of recruiting 26,000 additional staff to primary care nearly a year ahead of the deadline of March 2024.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS England Chief Executive, said: ‘Thanks to these new GP teams record numbers of appointments are being delivered, with the latest figures showing that more than 31 million appointments took place in March 2023 – up almost a third compared to pre-pandemic.’
But the RCGP warned that progress on another manifesto promise of 6,000 more GPs by 2024 had ‘gone backwards’.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the RCGP, said it was ‘positive to see efforts to expand the wider practice team realised, and patients will certainly benefit’.
But she said GP numbers were falling rather than increasing.
In spite of this, the data showed there were almost two million more GP appointments delivered in March when compared with a year ago – 83,500 more appointments each working day.
‘We are delivering millions more appointments than before the pandemic, with almost half offered on the same day they are booked – but with 852 fewer fully-qualified GPs compared to 2019,’ said Prof Hawthorne.
And the problem could get worse. RCGP surveys suggested that 22,000 GPs could leave the profession in the next five years, with many citing stress and burnout as the reason, she said.
‘We need thousands more GPs…and we look to the long-awaited NHS workforce plan with anticipation to see how this will be achieved.’
The latest figures come a week after NHS England published its primary care recovery plan, which focused on cutting bureaucracy to free up GP time.