The government has delivered on its’ manifesto commitment of recruiting 26,000 additional primary care professionals – such as dieticians, paramedics and physiotherapists – who provide care directly to patients, or support doctors and nurses to do so.
A year ahead of the March 2024 pledge, data published today by NHS England shows there are 29,103 additional primary care staff helping to deliver on one of the government’s key priorities to cut waiting lists.
This means that since March 2019, there are three and a half times more people working in these roles – from 11,500 in 2019 to over 40,600 as of March – in GP practices working with doctors and nurses to deliver care to patients.
The government say they are working to create many more appointments, with recent data showing there were almost two million more GP appointments delivered in March when compared to a year ago – that is 83,500 more appointments each working day.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
Expanding our brilliant primary care teams was a key promise of this government, and we have delivered. It is fantastic news we have achieved our target to recruit an extra 26,000 primary care professionals almost one year earlier than planned.
These dedicated professionals play a vital role at the front door of our NHS – supporting patients, delivering excellent care and helping to cut waiting lists.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:
This government is focused on cutting waiting lists – which is one of our five priorities – and getting patients the care they need, when they need it.
We have delivered on our promise a year early to recruit 26,000 extra primary care professionals which means more clinicians delivering better, more specialised and accessible care to patients.
Building on the Primary Care Recovery Plan, we are determined to end the 8am scramble, improve technology and reduce bureaucracy.
Today’s milestone builds on the recently published Primary Care Recovery Plan which set out action to make it easier for patients to contact their GP and end the 8am rush. It included £240 million funding given to practices across the UK this year to embrace latest technology.
More broadly, there are record numbers of doctors and nurses working in the NHS helping to deliver extra appointments, speed up diagnoses and tackle the Covid backlog. Data also shows 440 more doctors working in general practice and face-to-face appointments on the rise.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS England Chief Executive, said:
It is fantastic to see more than 29,000 staff join our General Practice workforce since 2019, a year ahead of the Government target, following NHS recruitment campaigns with these new staff including mental health practitioners, social prescribers, and pharmacists offering people expert care and advice at their local practice.
Thanks to these new GP teams record numbers of appointments are being delivered, with the latest figures showing that more than 31 million appointments took place in March 2023 – up almost a third compared to pre-pandemic.
The increase in primary care staff has enabled Mitesh – a pharmacist working in GP surgeries – to deliver approximately 100 appointments a week, helping assist GP staff with medication queries and carrying out reviews of patients with long term health conditions and structured medicine reviews (SMRs), which help maximise the benefit of medication.
Some GP teams have expanded to include dedicated care coordinators like Gill, who works with voluntary and care home services to provide support to patients with a life-limiting conditions and release valuable time for GPs.
There are now thousands more care coordinators, working in general practices, ensuring all services are talking to each other about local, often frail and older patients and making sure there are no gaps in the support and care provided.
Care coordinators also offer patients more time so that GPs can see patients who are clinically unwell. With care coordinators, patients have the opportunity to go into more detail about their concerns, knowing that they will be raised with a GP if necessary.
Other examples of how better care has been provided include the recruitment of mental health practitioners in the North East and Yorkshire region which has meant increased access to mental health services closer to home for patients and a shorter waiting period. GP appointments are now freed up as patients do not have to repeatedly see a GP and patients are seen and treated by clinicians sooner.
- The quarterly figures published on 18 May are available here: Primary Care Workforce Quarterly Update, 31 March 2023, Experimental Statistics – NDRS (digital.nhs.uk)
- Read the Primary Care Recovery Plan here: NHS England » Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care
- NHS Workforce Statistics for February 2023 are published by NHS Digital: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-workforce-statistics/january-2023
- The latest monthly general practice workforce data is available here: General Practice Workforce, 31 March 2023 – NDRS (digital.nhs.uk)
- The latest GP appointment data is available here: Appointments in General Practice, March 2023 – NDRS (digital.nhs.uk)