The latest GP workforce figures show a small rise in numbers, which the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) says must be “sustained and accelerated”.
Provisional data released by NHS Digital show 34,132 overall full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in September this year, compared to 33,012 in June, with the difference down to a large number of GP registrars entering the workforce during period.
“It is good news to see GP numbers rising after such a steep decline in recent years - and these figures, albeit provisional, show that we have over 40 more full-time equivalent GPs delivering care in the community than this time last year,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGPs.
“The trajectory is on the up. We now need to see this momentum sustained and accelerated, so that we have the sufficient numbers of GPs we need in the future.”
She went on to “applaud the efforts by NHS England and Health Education England that have gone in to encouraging medical students to choose general practice, something the College has been heavily involved in, and we now have more GPs in training than ever before. “
However, “it takes a long time to train a GP and we still need to see urgent initiatives implemented to retain our existing GPs, and to address the unsustainable workload family doctors and our teams are facing on a daily basis,” she stressed.
Earlier this year, NHS England announced a new £10 million initiative to help retain GPs considering leaving general practice in an attempt to address the growing workforce crisis. Other previously announced initiatives to boost numbers include providing more GP training places and an international programme to recruit 2,000 extra family doctors by 2020.
Aside from the key issues of rising workload and financial constraints, GP leaders recently warned that more than 2.5 million patients across England could see their GP practice close in the next five years as they are relying on a workforce in which three-quarters of GPs are aged over 55 and thus nearing retirement age.