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GPs ‘will not rest on laurels’ as figures show encouraging rise in numbers

Doctors have today vowed that they will not “rest on their laurels” as workforce figures showed that there had been a welcome rise in GPs coming into the workforce over the last three months.

The total GP headcount on 30 June 2017 was 42,215, which amounts to 34,242 full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs, and represents a rise in the workforce of 321, around (0.9%).

Despite this, the number of FTE GPs, excluding locums, leaving the profession was more than joining it, with the figures standing at 531 and 486 respectively – a drop of 46.

It also comes the same week that NHS England announced plans to expand its international GP recruitment efforts to give the workforce a much needed lift.

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said that the results are promising, especially after disappointing previous figures had shown that the workforce was actually declining, despite the GP Forward View pledging to bring 5,000 more GPs to the profession by 2021.

“There is no doubt that there is a long way to go before we have the number of GPs we really need – or the number pledged in NHS England’s GP Forward View – but it is important that we do recognise success when we find it, and an increase of 321 more GPs in the workforce over a three-month period is certainly not to be sniffed at,” said RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

“If we continue on an upwards trajectory throughout the course of the GP Forward View, then we will substantially increase the number of GPs in the workforce – and if we also consider the potential from new plans to recruit at least 2,000 overseas doctors by 2020, announced by NHS England today, this is positive for the profession.

“We must not rest on our laurels,” Prof Stokes-Lampard also warned. “We must continue to pull out every stop imaginable to recruit more GPs, make it easier for trained GPs to return to practice, and perhaps most importantly address workload and conditions in general practice, so that more GPs stay in our profession, delivering patient care for years to come.”

BMA: workforce figures ‘disappointing’

But other organisations were not as positive. The British Medical Association’s (BMA’s) GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that more needed to be done by the government to create a sustainable, long-term basis on which to remedy the huge workforce problems threatening to overwhelm GPs.

“It is disappointing that once again the latest official figures show only a marginal increase in the GP workforce in England despite repeated promises by politicians that patients would be seeing thousands more GPs trained in the UK delivering care in the NHS,” Dr Vautrey added.

“Many GP practices are struggling badly to provide enough appointments and basic services to the public because of endemic staff shortages,” he continued. “A recent BMA poll found that a third of GP practices had vacancies unfilled for more than a year.

“We need the government to not only immediately implement in full the provisions of the GP Forward View but to go beyond this so that Health Education England, NHS England and other bodies are able to recruit and, crucially, retain GPs.

“Far too many GPs are quitting the profession owing to the overworked and underfunded environment they are expected to work in, while medical graduates are turning their backs on a career in general practice for the same reasons.”

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