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Government fails to meet GP recruitment target

Published on 31/03/05 at 02:13pm

The government has fallen short of recruiting its target number of new family doctors, despite figures showing an increase in the number of GPs in England.

Statistics from the Department of Health reveal that the government has failed to meet its NHS Plan goal of recruiting an extra 2,000 doctors between 1999 and 2004.

The new workforce figures show that although the headcount of GPs rose by 3,056 over this period, the increase in terms of full-time family doctors was only 1,750.

The difference in the figures, according to the British Medical Association, can be attributed to the growing proportion of GPs working part-time, whose numbers have spiralled from 13% in 1994 to 25% in 2004.

Dr Laurence Buckman, deputy chairman of the BMA General Practitioners Committee, said: "When patients are promised extra doctors they think in terms of full-time doctors, so it is disappointing to see we have not got as many extra GPs as we had hoped. The BMA has always said we needed 10,000 extra GPs to implement the NHS plan."

Overall, the number of GPs in 2004 stood at 31,523 but translated into its full-time equivalent this number amounted to 28,308 doctors. In 1999 there were 28,467 GPs, which translated into 26,558 full-time doctors.

The figures also indicated a severe reduction in the number of single-handed GP practices over the past 10 years, falling from 2,959 in 1994 to 1,918 in 2004 a drop of 1,041.

Dr Buckman continued: "As a single-handed practitioner myself I regret this trend. There is sound research which shows that patients value being able to see the same GP."

Commenting on the rise in the number of GPs, Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA's consultants' committee, said: "The latest rise in the number of consultants will give the NHS a much-needed boost. The government must continue to invest in the consultant workforce if it is to have the consultant-led hospital service that patients deserve."

The Department of Health also revealed that 60% of people training to become GPs are women.

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