General practice ‘haemorrhaging doctors' while patient numbers reach record highs, warns BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 28 July 2022
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Responding to today’s general practice workforce data for England, which shows a fall of 442 full-time equivalent fully-qualified GPs between June 2021 and June 2022, as patient numbers reach record highs, Dr Samira Anane, BMA GP committee workforce policy lead, said:

“Again, we see general practice haemorrhaging doctors while the number of patients practices are looking after reaches record highs.

“Almost 62 million patients are now registered at practices in England – almost 1 million more than a year ago and almost 5 million more than in 2015 – with an average of 9,500 at each practice. As these numbers rise while the number of family doctors fall, each remaining GP is now responsible for 2,200 patients on average, 16% more than they were in 2015 when records began.

“Faced with the biggest hospital waiting lists for treatment ever, it’s clear for all to see that both trends are going the wrong way - and people will only struggle further to get the care they need.

“In the past year alone, the NHS in England has lost the equivalent of 442 full-time, fully-qualified GPs, with almost 70 of these being in the most recent month. This is the equivalent of more than 150,000 people losing ‘their family doctor’ in one month.

“GP partners, who run practices, are leaving at a greater rate due to the intense pressures of their roles.

“While many are managing their workload and protecting their own wellbeing by limiting the hours they are working, others are leaving entirely – shown by the drop of more than 850 GPs by headcount. As more GPs leave, their colleagues take on far more, with the situation on the ground a world away from the ‘part-time’ GP narrative we see peddled so often.

“What’s more, data on published ‘working hours’ fails to reflect the reality in practices across the country. It doesn’t take account of the significant unpaid additional work that GPs are undertaking on top of their contracted hours, including catching up on the piles of admin, and supervising and training the practice team.

“Demand and unmanageable workloads are made worse by the constant undermining and devaluing of general practice by Government and policymakers – encapsulated by last week’s significant real-terms pay cut for GP practice staff, with no extra funding to practices to even pay this. Meanwhile, the Government continues to ignore punitive pension rules that are driving senior doctors away even when they want to continue – something rightly criticised as a ‘national scandal’ by MPs this week.

“After years of underfunding and poor workforce planning, and with no action to address the shortfall and continuous exodus of GPs, more practices will close and patients will lose access to their family doctor, with huge consequences for their health and an already-collapsing NHS.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.