The falling number of GPs is ‘simply not enough’ to meet the demand for services, the BMA has said in response to new analysis of official figures underlining the dwindling workforce.
New analysis of NHS Digital statistics by the Trades Union Congress shows the number of full-time equivalent GPs in England, excluding registrars, fell by 917 between October 2015 and September 2019.
The TUC’s analysis highlighted this equates to a 3% drop in the past four years.
It comes as Pulse recently reported that there has been a decrease of 1,008 fully-qualified FTE GPs since September 2015 – when former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to increase the workforce by 5,000 by 2020.
The BMA has reiterated its concerns about the falling GP numbers and again warned politicians over their ability to deliver election manifesto pledges to boost GP numbers.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As we’ve said time and time again, there are simply not enough GPs to meet demand and guarantee safe, quality care to patients. And as doctors stretch themselves more thinly, they risk their own health and wellbeing.
‘As this analysis shows, despite pledges to increase numbers by 5,000 by next year, we’ve seen the exact opposite – with hundreds fewer family doctors than we did in 2015. While election promises to boost GP numbers are necessary and encouraging, politicians must learn from mistakes of the past.’
He added: ‘This means both encouraging more young doctors to choose general practice, while retaining those talented and experienced GPs who work tirelessly in their communities every day. And it means tackling unsustainable workloads and mounting bureaucracy, while scrapping damaging pension rules that are causing so many doctors to reduce their hours or leave the profession altogether.’
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The Conservatives promised a big increase in GP numbers. But on their watch the number of doctors has fallen while demand has increased.
‘Our hardworking and overstretched GPs are working tirelessly to help patients. But there are simply not enough of them to keep up with demand.
‘As a result, patients are not getting the treatments they need on time. And family doctors are stressed and overwhelmed.’
The BMA also recently said the Conservative pledge of recruiting 6,000 new doctors by 2024/25 is an ‘ambitious target’.