Number of GPs working in England falls 2% to 34,100


The number of GPs working in England has decreased, new figures show.

The news will come as a blow to ministers, who have pledged to increase the number of family doctors by 5,000 by 2020.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in September last year there were 34,100 full-time equivalent GPs working within primary care in England compared with an estimated 34,700 in 2014.

The figure represents a drop of almost 2%.

When the figure includes locum doctors, the latest figure rises to 34,600. 

The figures show there has been an increase in the number of nurses working at GP surgeries and a slight dip in admin workers.

There are now 15,400 full-time equivalent nursing staff in general practice - a rise of 2.2% since 2014. The number of admin and other non-clinical staff now stands at 63,700.

Last week NHS England announced a package of measures to help get general practice "back on its feet".

Patients will be urged to ''self-manage'' conditions online and see nurses and pharmacists as part of a major shake-up of GP surgeries.

NHS England has announced an extra £2.4 billion a year in funding by 2020/21 as part of its five year plan.

The boost comes after mounting pressure from GP leaders over increasing workloads and underfunding, as well as a shortage of trainee doctors willing to go into general practice.

Under the plan announced by NHS England boss Simon Stevens, GP practices will work together to manage patient demand, increase their opening hours on week nights and at weekends, and encourage patients to see professionals other than GPs.

The plan calls for a reduced burden on GPs while increasing the role of other practitioners and better "self-care" among patients.

GP practices could see an extra 1,500 pharmacists working alongside them to streamline things such as repeat prescriptions, deal with minor ailments and help people with long-term conditions. There is also a plan to bring 3,000 mental health therapists into primary care.

Overall, an extra 5,000 non-medical staff are needed over the next five years to support general practice, alongside 5,000 more GPs.

There will also be a push to retain existing GPs and those who want to work flexibly and part-time, as well as cash incentives for doctors who want to return to the field.