Workforce in primary care

The Primary Care Workforce – An Update for the New Millennium

The Royal College of General Practitioners was founded in 1952 with this object:

"To encourage, foster and maintain the highest possible standards in general practice and for that purpose to take or join with others in taking steps consistent with the charitable nature of that object which may assist towards the same."

Among its responsibilities under its Royal Charter the College is entitled to:

"Diffuse information on all matters affecting general practice and issue such publications as may assist the object of the College."

© Royal College of General Practitioners

Second edition 2000


"Workforce issues have never had a greater priority. Expectations on general practitioners are ratchet up. We are being asked to be more accessible, to audit our care, to undertake continuing professional development, to appraise each other and to be revalidated. We are expected to decide on the future configuration of the health service through new powerful primary care organisations.

These increased demands come against a backdrop of problems with recruitment, part-time general practitioners replacing full-time retirers and a dropping retirement age. This booklet sets out the problems clearly and offers an analysis of the scale of the solutions. At a minimum we need 150 new entrants to general practice for every 100 who retire. At present we scarcely break even.

There is a need for greater understanding of our workforce crisis among politicians, managers and the profession itself. The Royal College of General Practitioners will continue to campaign to improve recruitment, the quality of vocational training, the career prospects and the working environment of general practitioners."

Professor Mike Pringle
Chairman of Council
Royal College of General Practitioners


Since the first version of this information was published as The Primary Care Workforce A Descriptive Analysis 3 in December 1996 there have been a significant number of changes in primary care including the ending of the GP fundholding scheme and the introduction of primary care groups (PCGs).4 This new version updates some of the previous information as an aide memoir to all those involved in planning the workforce of the future for primary care.

For simplicity, terminology relating to England has been used throughout this document (for example primary care groups where local alternatives exist).

There is no evidence that the crisis in recruitment and retention in general practice has abated. 1

There are no significant recruitment problems for GPs. 2

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