The number of fully-qualified full-time equivalent GPs has fallen by 277 in a year, the latest NHS Digital figures show.
There were 28,319 full-time GPs working for the NHS in December 2019 compared with 28,596 in December 2018 – a drop of about 1%.
However, the overall headcount of fully qualified GPs increased by 975 or 2.5%, which suggests more GPs are opting to work part-time or more flexibly.
Overall, the number of fully-qualified full-time GPs has dropped by 1,084, or 4%, since September 2015 when former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to recruit an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020/21.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said GP numbers are continuing to move in the wrong direction.
“When you include GP trainees, numbers are more positive – and it is excellent that we have more GPs in training than ever before – but we are still only making slight headway in terms of the 6,000 target pledged during the General Election – and trainees, while qualified doctors, are in GP training to learn, so we should be cautious about relying on them for service delivery,” he added.
Marshall said general practice has been experiencing escalating workload pressure without the resource or workforce to deal with it for many years.
“This predicament is making the job ‘undoable’ for many and as a result experienced GPs are burning out and leaving the profession earlier than they planned,” he warned.