The number of GPs in the UK per 100,000 people has fallen from nearly 65 in 2014 to 60 last year, analysis by the Nuffield Trust has found.
The last time numbers fell like this was in the late 1960s and it comes at a time when the population is ageing and demands on GPs are rising.
‘These figures are disheartening but will be unsurprising for GPs – and their patients – across the country who are feeling the impact of relentless workforce pressures in general practice on a daily basis,’ said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs.
‘Demand for GP services is escalating both in terms of volume and complexity – and when this is compounded by falling GP numbers, it creates a perfect storm that is leading to GPs becoming stressed and burning out, and in many cases leaving NHS general practice far earlier than they might otherwise have done.’
The fall in number of GPs has been particularly marked in regions such as North West London and the East of England. These regions also have the lowest total number of GPs per 100,000 people, whereas Scotland has the highest.
According to the Nuffield trust, the fall in GPs per person reflects insufficient numbers previously being trained and going on to join the NHS; failure to recruit enough from abroad; and more practitioners leaving for early retirement
‘We are optimistic about the future of general practice: the financial commitment to primary and community care in the NHS long-term plan in England; the new five-year GP contract which promises that money will get to the front line; and pledges to ensure greater investment in technology are all part of a jigsaw that should help keep the NHS sustainable for the future. But GP numbers, which as this research shows are still falling, cannot be ignored,’ added Professor Stokes-Lampard.
‘We need see more measures implemented to genuinely tackle soaring workload as a matter of urgency and efforts redoubled to cut red tape that diverts time away from patients, and we need to make the working environment in general practice supportive and sustainable, so that family doctors aren’t forced out of the profession. This would not just be in the best interests of GPs, but the NHS as a whole, and most importantly, our patients.’