How many more GPs we need in 10 years, and what we need to do now

October 18, 2022 • Reading time 2 minutes

It takes 10 years to train a GP. Therefore, interventions we put in place today may not bear fruit until as late as 2032.

We estimate that by 2032 we will need 39,000 fully-qualified full-time equivalent GPs* to meet the growing demand, if we aim to halve the current vacancy rate of 17%, as reported by the annual survey by Pulse, or approximately 4,700 GPs.
A strategy to replenish and retain the current workforce (27,500 fully-qualified GPs) will be paramount, as 10,700 GPs are forecast to retire over the next decade and more have expressed a wish to leave, as highlighted by the eleventh National GP Worklife Survey and the Royal College of GPs’ latest survey (33% and 42% of respondents respectively).

In this upcoming series of blog posts, we will take you through five practical steps that the Department of Health and NHS England could take to address the growing gap and support primary care and the wider nation’s health through the future.

Our analysis of primary care workforce and demand has highlighted that:

  • Demand is growing, public health strategies are necessary to slow down its rise
  • Workforce growth will not keep up with demand, at current rates, and needs to be supported by a sustainable, long-term strategy focusing on retention, training and accounting for changes in working patterns
  • Innovative approaches to healthcare, a greater contribution of non-medical direct care staff and better use of powerful data can guide the health service through the next decade

We believe this gap can be addressed through the following pragmatic and actionable five steps:

  1. Addressing public health factors that drive primary care demand by targeting the prevalence of obesity and diabetes
  2. Retain as much as possible of the current workforce by addressing reasons for leaving
  3. Sustain trainee numbers by increasing UK-medical school graduate numbers as well as continuing to support international hiring (but taper this down overtime to promote sustainability)
  4. Increase numbers of primary care nurses and non-medical patient facing staff to free up GPs’ time
  5. Enact innovative strategies to support future primary care

We will be discussing each of these individually in follow-up blogs, where we will explore the methodology and strategy in more detail.
Until then, you can reach out to us with any questions or further thoughts.


* We will be using Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) numbers when referring to GPs during our analysis

Appendix:

Gap estimates obtained as follows:
Current gap estimated from reported vacancy of 17% (Pulse) – setting a target of reducing this to 8.5%.
Demand gap: from in-house demand model trained on attended appointment volumes from 2018 to 2021 (NHS Digital), ageing, obesity and diabetes prevalence rates and projections (QOF and ONS).
Retirees: maintaining the last 10 year’s trend of 1300 retirees (headcount) per year (NHSBSA).
Other leavers: estimated at 33% every 5 years (PRUComm National GP Worklife Survey), minus retirees.
PMQ: primary medical qualification.

Lucia De Santis

Lucia is a Senior Analyst and NHS-trained medical doctor. She is passionate about engaging workforce in healthcare improvements. Her unique insights add depth and human element to data analysis, literature review and visualisation.

Lucia is a Senior Analyst and NHS-trained medical doctor. She is passionate about engaging workforce in healthcare improvements. Her unique insights add depth and human element to data analysis, literature review and visualisation.