The Government must take action to ensure that promised funding for GP practices is delivered ‘as quickly as possible’.
That is the message from BMA GPC deputy chair Richard Vautrey, pictured, as new NHS figures show the number of GPs working in primary care is decreasing, despite a relentless surge in demand.
The HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre) has revealed that the number of full-time equivalent GPs, excluding locums, working in primary care in England is thought to have decreased from just over 34,700 in 2014 to 34,055 in 2016.
The numbers equate to a 1.9 per cent drop in the number of GPs while the number of appointments booked by patients rose by 40 million from 2008 to 2014.
Dr Vautrey said the statistics ‘expose the crisis in general practice with GPs leaving because of unsustainable workload pressures’.
He added: ‘It demonstrates why it is important that the BMA’s proposals for an Urgent Prescription for General Practice, together with NHS England's recently announced General Practice Forward View, must be implemented immediately.
‘It is deeply worrying that at a time of escalating patient demand, especially from an ageing population, there has been a decrease in the number of GPs and staff focused on delivering patient care.
‘The public is already seeing the impact of this in their local GP practice, with many struggling to provide enough appointments.
‘A recent BMA survey showed that more than 300 GP practices believed they were facing closure because of their increasingly difficult financial situation.
‘Ministers cannot wait a moment longer and need to ensure that its recent promises of new funding to GP practices materialise as quickly as possible.’
It comes just a week after NHS England announced plans aimed at tackling the mounting crises of workforce, investment and workload facing GPs.
A host of BMA recommendations have been included in the ‘support package’, which will see an injection of £2.4bn a year into general practice by 2020-21 — equivalent to a 14 per cent real-terms increase.
BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul said the General Practice Forward View represented the most promising plan for general practice in more than a decade, crediting the support package to years of intense lobbying and hard work by the BMA.
Dr Nagpaul added: ‘The Forward View represents a significant and comprehensive package of proposals to support general practice both in the immediate and longer term — the most that we have seen since 2004.
‘Many of the proposals have taken on board GPC’s specific recommendations in our Urgent Prescription for General Practice.
The information released by HSCIC today marks the first time data has been collected directly from GP practices, with previous analysis of GP workforce statistics being collated through a census.
HSCIC statistician Kate Bedford said: ‘The change in scope of the GP report will enable us to provide a valuable overall picture of the NHS primary care workforce with more detail than before.
‘With the additional data on all staff that provide services within GP practices at the time of the collection, it is hoped this information will shed light on current staffing numbers across all job roles in practices, allowing for better workforce planning.’
The story so far
Read more from Peter Blackburn and follow on Twitter.