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  • Conservatives have “broken 2015 promise” to increase GP numbers, says TUC
  • GP numbers have fallen as the population has increased
  • GP provision at “critical” levels

The number of GPs in England has fallen by nearly 1,000 since 2015 despite Conservative promises to boost numbers, new TUC analysis has shown today (Monday).

In 2015 the Conservative government pledged to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020. But since then the number of doctors at GP surgeries has fallen while patient demand has increased.

Overstretched services

Doctors’ leaders say the average number of patients GPs should have on their list is 1,600 in order to provide a high-quality service.

But in September this year the average number of patients per GP was 2,100.

Rather than going down – as promised by the Conservatives – GP patient lists have increased by 160 (8%), on average, since 2015.

With demand on GP surgeries increasing unions say an additional 9,000 doctors are needed to run services at the right level.

The average wait for a routine GP appointment is now more than two weeks.

Regional impact

The North East (with an 11% drop in the number of GPs) and the East of England (-7%) have seen the biggest overall fall in doctors since 2015.

The five areas of the country in need of the most GPs are:

  • NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (East of England), where the shortfall is 178 GPs
  • NHS Birmingham and Solihull (West Midlands), 172 GPs short
  • NHS Leeds (Yorkshire and Humber), 142 GPs short
  • NHS Derby and Derbyshire (East Midlands), 138 GPs short.
  • NHS Nene (East Midlands), 128 GPs short

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Conservatives promised a big increase in GP numbers. But on their watch the number of doctors has fallen while demand has increased.

“Our hardworking and overstretched GPs are working tirelessly to help patients. But there are simply not enough of them to keep up with demand.

“As a result patients are not getting the treatments they need on time. And family doctors are stressed and overwhelmed.

The next government must invest in our NHS and boost GP numbers.”

Editors note

- GP numbers – context: In 2015 the Conservative government pledged to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020: But there are 917 fewer GPs in England today than in 2015.

- GP numbers – regional figures:

- The shortfall in number of GPs is calculated by comparing the actual number of GPs to the average recommended of 1,600 patients by GP (BMA. Safe working in general practice report)


Full time equivalent GPs % change 2015-19

% change registered patients 2015-19

Shortfall in number of GPs


East of England




East Midlands




Greater London




North East




North West




South East




South West




West Midlands




Yorkshire & the Humber




Total England




- Figures were calculated using NHS digital data in October 2015 and September 2019. Registrars are excluded from this analysis.

- GP numbers – local data for all CCGs: Data for all Clinical Commissioning Groups can be downloaded as a spreadsheet using the link below.

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