England lost 576 GPs in a year, NHS Digital figures show

NHS Digital data has shown that England lost 576 FTE GPs in the year up to June 2019

New figures from NHS Digital show the number of full-time equivalent , fully-qualified GPs in England fell by 576 (two per cent) in the year up to June 2019, while the number of FTE partners fell by more than 1,000 (5.3 per cent) to 18,511.

Dr Simon Wallace, chief clinical information officer, Nuance Communications, responded to the news:

“Against the backdrop of an aging population, staff shortages and budget restraints, the NHS has never had to work harder to deliver a satisfactory service for patients.

“This has led to increased pressure, particularly on GPs. In fact, recent survey by the General Medical Council (GMC) suggests that a quarter of medics feel ‘burned out’, with around half feeling routinely exhausted.

“As well as enormous work pressures and fears over patient safety and complaints, the increased amount of administration is challenging the actual time spent with patients, with healthcare professionals spending an average of 11 hours a week creating clinical documentation.

“This can leave GPs feeling overwhelmed and stretched to breaking point.

“Although there is no one ‘silver bullet’ to tackle burnout, technology – such as speech recognition solutions – can help to alleviate some of the pressures placed on GPs and help them to work more effectively. After all, we typically speak three times faster than we type.

Through a speech to text tool, powered by advanced AI technology, GPs can document patient stories more completely and in their own words—enabling them to update the history of present illness, review of symptoms, physical examination and assessment and plan in real time. 

“We need to take care of doctors so they can take care of patients. Technology could be one way to reduce the feeling of burnout by enabling healthcare professionals to claw back some of the time spent on documentation and administrative tasks, while giving them the head space to do what they were trained to do – aid and diagnose patients ”

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, BMA GP committee executive committee workforce lead, added:

“These statistics are a stark illustration of the workforce crisis that continues to blight general practice. In the face of high workloads, punitive pension regulations and the overly burdensome admin that comes with running a practice, it is no surprise that the number of GPs, and in particular partners, is continuing to fall. This is despite repeated pledges from the government to boost numbers by thousands.

“GP Practices are working more closely together now, and with expanded healthcare teams so that patients receive the most appropriate and timely care possible – and we hope this will go some way to alleviate some of the workload pressure placed on doctors.

“And while the number of trainees choosing family medicine is rising, crucially general practice needs to become a more attractive career for those already working within it.

“The government must value the workforce, both by increasing resources and scrapping damaging pension rules that are forcing hard-working GPs to retire or reduce hours before they both want and need to.”

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