The number of permanent qualified GPs has fallen 2.2 per cent since 2015, with each practitioner responsible for an average of 2,280 patients.
Data from the House of Commons Library service showed that although the number of GPs in training has risen from 4,941 to 6,975 over the past six years there are just 26,778 permanent practitioners for a registered patient population of 61m.
It comes as the availability of face-to-face appointments dipped during the pandemic amid surging demand. In August 2021 there were estimated to be around 24m GP appointments in England, two per cent higher than the previous year, but the number of daily appointments is lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said “we are grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs throughout the pandemic and have invested £270m to expand capacity, on top of £1.5 billion until 2023/24.
“We are committed to increasing the number of training places available for GPs to 4,000 a year and creating an extra 50m appointments annually to improve patient access,” the spokesperson added.
The commentator pointed out that when locum staff and retainers are included, the total number of full time GPs has actually risen from 33,056 in September 2015 to 34,726 in June 2021.
The data also showed that waiting times are on the rise. Over 27 per cent of cancer sufferers had to wait longer than 62 days between receiving an urgent GP referral and receiving treatment.