NHS staffing tracker

Monitoring and analysis of key workforce targets and trends.

General practice

Most of the contact that people have with the NHS is with general practice: there are an estimated 300 million appointments each year. These services provide the first step in diagnosing and treating most patients’ health conditions.

Due to changes in the data, trends in general practice staff are limited to 2015 at the earliest. The data do not include staff working in prisons, army bases, educational establishments, specialist care centres including drug rehabilitation centres and walk-in centres. From July 2019, primary care networks (PCNs) will offer services to patients and employ new specialist staff such as clinical pharmacists, social prescribing link workers, physiotherapists, physician associates and paramedics. NHS Digital has started to publish information on the PCN workforce, but the data does not presently cover all PCNs. Based on the PCN data that is available, we have estimated the number of certain primary care staff groups employed by PCNs across England in some of the charts below.

Number of GPs 30/06/2020

Chart

Note:  

1. Data are for qualified general practitioners in England.

2. The number of qualified GPs, excluding registrars, start from December 2017 on the chart. The higher GP locum numbers reported in March 2017 are not comparable to previous figures in the time series due to indications that additional guidance has led to more accurate reporting of this group.

3. The initial target of 5,000 more GPs by 2020 begins in the quarter following the publication of the GP Forward View (end of June 2016) and extends to the end of the 2020 calendar year. The most recent target of 6,000 additional GPs by 2024/25 starts at Q4 of 2019/20 on the chart (March 2020), following the 2019 General Election, and ends in Q4 of 2024/25 (March 2025).

4. NHS Digital identified a very likely under-reporting of staff in the March 2020 general practice workforce data. These numbers may be refreshed in due course.

5. Data on the primary care network (PCN) workforce is limited and is not fully complete, therefore this chart includes an estimate of the number of GPs working in primary care networks across England.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s General Practice Workforce Statistics & Primary Care Network Workforce.

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Since 2015, the number of permanent, fully qualified GPs has fallen by around 2,200. Even when including our estimate of the GP workforce registered with PCNs, there is still a decrease of 1,800 full-time equivalent GPs. We would have expected levels to increase to be on course to deliver 5,000 more GPs as soon as possible.

About the target: The GP Forward View (2016) stated that GP staffing would be expanded to create an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice by 2020. The Interim NHS People Plan (2019) then superseded this and called for 5,000 more GPs “as soon as possible”. The Conservative Party Manifesto has more recently committed to 6,000 more doctors in general practice by 2024/25. It is not clear whether GP registrars or locums are supposed to be counted, and whether the pledge relates to headcount or FTE.


Number of practice staff other than GPs 30/06/2020

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Note:  

1. Data are for staff working in general practice in England.

2. The number of full-time equivalent health professionals (bold grey line) is a subset of the total number of full-time equivalent general practice staff (bold blue line).

3. Both targets begin in Q2 2016/17 (end of June 2016), following the publication of the GP Forward View. The target for 5,000 more practice staff stops at the end of the calendar year in December 2020, and the target for 20,000 more health professionals in general practice ends at the end of the 2023/24 rolling year (end of March 2024).

4. NHS Digital identified a very likely under-reporting of staff in the March 2020 general practice workforce data. These numbers may be refreshed in due course.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s General Practice Workforce Statistics

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GPs themselves make up only a minority of the total practice workforce. The total number of health professionals (excluding GPs) has increased by over 1,000  in the last year and, when including non-clinical staff, numbers have increased by over 3,100 .

About the target: The GP Forward View (2016) called for 5,000 more staff working in general practice by 2020 and for 20,000 more health professionals (excluding GPs) by 2023/24. It was not clear whether the targets related to headcount or FTE.


Change in number of GPs per region since March 2019 30/06/2020

Chart

Note:  

1. Data are for qualified general practitioners in England by Health Education England region. GP registrars are not always accurately recorded by region so they have been excluded.

2. Data show the absolute and percentage differences in the number of GPs between two reporting periods.

3. The geographies are Health Education England regions.

4. NHS Digital identified a very likely under-reporting of staff in the March 2020 general practice workforce data. These numbers may be refreshed in due course.

5. This chart has not been refreshed with the latest data (June 2020) due to differences in the geographical breakdown reported.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s General Practice Workforce Statistics

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The number of GPs has decreased across all regions of England. Between March 2019 and March 2020, the smallest percentage decrease was in South London (-1.0%) compared to a 5.2% decrease in the East of England.


Number of physician associates and clinical pharmacists in general practice 30/06/2020

Chart

Note:  

1. Data are for full-time equivalent pharmacists and physician associates in primary care in England.

2. Both targets in the chart begin in Q2 2016/17 (end of June 2016), following the publication of the GP Forward View, and both target lines stop at the end of the calendar year in December 2020.

3. NHS Digital identified a very likely under-reporting of staff in the March 2020 general practice workforce data. These numbers may be refreshed in due course.

4. Data on the primary care network (PCN) workforce is limited and is not fully complete, therefore this chart includes an estimate of the number of pharmacists and physician associates working in primary care networks across England.

Source:  

NHS Digital’s General Practice Workforce Statistics & Primary Care Network Workforce.

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Growing the number of physician associates and clinical pharmacists in general practice have been national priorities in recent years. Since 2016, the number of clinical pharmacists has grown by a little over 900 – below the level likely needed to meet the target. Over the same period, the number of physician associates has increased by only 280, which is well below the level required to meet the ambition of 1,000 by 2020.

Despite this, we recognise that both of these professions are likely to be registered to primary care networks as their place of work, rather than general practice. Using our estimates based on PCN workforce data, it appears as though both staff groups have well exceeded their respective targets to be achieved by the end of 2020.

About the target: Targets for 1,500 more pharmacists and 1,000 physician associates in primary care by 2020 were detailed in the GP Forward View (2016). It was not clear whether the targets related to headcount or FTE.

nhsst 01/04/1920

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