GP numbers falling, Full Fact confirms

31st March 2023 by NASGP

GP numbers falling, Full Fact confirms

A new guide by Full Fact has confirmed that fully-qualified FTE GP numbers fell during the pandemic. Data on FTE fully-qualified salaried and partner GPs that excludes GP trainees and GP locums reveals that the 27,120 reported in December 2019 fell to 26,630 last month (February 2023).

Numbers are down once again from a peak of 28,680 in 2016.

The guide was published in the same week as the results of the British Social Attitudes survey showed public trust in the NHS is at an all-time low. Professor Kamila Hawthorne, RCGP chair, commented: “Without general practice, the rest of the NHS will collapse, yet the latest data for England shows that numbers of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs continue to fall – by 852 since 2019, while our workload has risen by 9%.”

Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said: “ even though staff are trying their absolute hardest – for example GP practices providing far more appointments than they were pre-pandemic despite plummeting GP numbers – improving patients’ experiences relies almost solely on boosting the workforce.” Prof Banfield nodded to the contract imposition as a sign of the poor relationship between the profession and the current Government.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “These data worry me for two reasons. The first is that, as a profession, our plan to increase GP capacity by encouraging more GPs to enter partnership and salaried posts is clearly backfiring.

“Most worrying though is that these data reveal that we have a complete blind spot when it comes to what GPs are doing if they are not in a partnership or salaried post.

“Just because there has been no attempt to count the number of GP locums does not mean that we don’t have a significant role to play in the delivery of clinical capacity in primary care. We don’t know what we don’t know, and that is a scary position to be in in 2023, given the 9% increase in workload.

“An outsider reading this report would not think GP locums exist, let alone matter, yet clearly we do. Until the powers that be recognise this and incorporate the GP locum workforce into the NHS’s long term plans, then carrying on doing the same thing and expecting different results is truly insane.”

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