GP numbers are ‘flatlining’ and we need urgent action to turn this round, says College Chair

Responding to the latest data on general practice workforce, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:

“Winter will arrive all too soon and with it will come the peak season for our patients’ health issues and the additional pressures this creates for general practice. These latest figures show that we are far from prepared, with the number of full-time equivalent, fully qualified GPs continuing to flatline.

“GPs and their teams have been working exceptionally hard, delivering millions of appointments per month but now with 952 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than 2019. These pressures look set to continue for the foreseeable future as GPs deal with a growing workload, both in the volume of patients and the complexity of their illnesses, over the coming months.

“Many GPs are experiencing burnout, low morale and a sense of moral distress at not being able to offer patients access to much-needed care. We know that when GPs do leave the profession earlier than planned, it is often due to the pressures of the role which results in a vicious cycle effect, whereby the workloads of those who remain in practice intensify. College surveys have shown that this cycle is likely to get worse, with many of our fully-qualified GPs considering leaving general practice in the next five years.

“The simple fact is that we need many more GPs to ensure that patients receive the care they need and deserve. General practice is understaffed and overburdened and we need to see policymakers take immediate steps to turn this dire situation around – introducing significant investment for improved retention initiatives to curb the rate at which GPs are leaving the profession and encouraging the next generation of GPs into the workforce.

“The summer period should have been an opportunity to bolster our workforce and to prepare for the heightened demand we see each winter, but this latest data suggests that we’ll be facing the peak season in a highly precarious position. The hard work, dedication and professionalism of our GP teams will only go so far, we need to see bold action from the government immediately to increase the number of GPs or we risk becoming vulnerable to further crises.”

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.