GP numbers ‘flatlining’, latest NHS workforce stats reveal

1st September 2023 by NASGP

GP numbers ‘flatlining’, latest NHS workforce stats reveal

The number of fully qualified GPs working in England continues to fall, latest data show.

By headcount, there are currently 36,493 fully-qualified GPs (excluding trainees), 236 fewer than July 2022. These stats exclude GP locums.

The stats have the headcount for GP partners at 19,207 (down from 19,602 in July 2022), and salaried GPs at 15,586 (up from 15,256). Before the pandemic in December 2019, there were just 13,391 salaried GPs compared with 20,906 partners, suggesting the gap between these sectors is closing.

GP locums may be poorly counted by the NHS Workforce stats. At the latest count the NHS states that there are just 1,507 ‘GP Regular Locums’ at work (down from 2,477 in 2019) whereas the NASGP estimates its current active membership at around 4,000.

RCGP chair Prof Kamilla Hawthorne warned that the latest figures show GP numbers ‘flatlining’ and called for urgent action.

“GPs and their teams have been working exceptionally hard, delivering millions of appointments per month but now with 952 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than 2019,” she said.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “Albert Einstein may or may not have said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But he was aware of dark matter, the as-yet undetected presence of the force that holds galaxies together.

“There’s no point trying to come up with any semblance of a GP workforce plan if you ignore the as-yet inaccurately counted presence of locums, with up to 20,000 of us helping to hold practices together. Instead of continuing to just count GP partners and salaried GPs over and over again and expect different results, NHSE needs to open its mindset to GP locums. After all, even with the GP headcount going down, there must be an explanation as to what’s still holding it all together.

“If the NHS starts to properly count GP locums, it might actually be pleasantly surprised. Instead, it continues to carry on doing exactly what it’s always done.”

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