GP leaders have suggested a rethink in the way that GPs FTE equivalent workforce is calculated.
It is suggested that double counting is taking place under the existing system.
Official data published by NHS Digital earlier this year showed a headcount figure of 41,985 GPs in England, translating into an FTE GP workforce of 34,914.
But senior officials believe that the FTE figure is misleading; potentially particularly serious considering the crisis currently emerging in general practice.
GPs in England complete just over 1.3 million working hours a week, data indicates.
NHS Digital then translates this figure into an FTE GP workforce figure by dividing it by 37.5 hours; the standard working week.
But some GPs claim the new system is effectively double counting GPs, as around one-third of GPs overall – excluding registrars, retainers and locums – and around 44% of partners are counted as more than one FTE.
GPC workforce, education and training subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni believes that NHS Digital should publish simpler national and regional headcount figures, and the total number of hours or days worked by these GPs.
“Converting it into an FTE figure is arbitrary. There isn’t really a standard definition of what one FTE GP is – wherever you draw the line doesn’t make sense. I know GPs who work three days a week and work easily 37.5 hours. And if a full-time GP works nine sessions – I don’t know many who do that in a 37.5-hour week. This is essentially double counting”.
Kasaraneni noted that GPs are generally working longer hours, meaning that the profession is under rising pressure, and that the figures wrongly indicate that the workforce is growing, while what is in fact occurring is that doctors are working harder.
Analytical section head at NHS Digital, Ian Thornber, indicated that the organisation is currently examining different means to present the data.
“The data are currently classed as experimental. If the GPC would like them presented in an “hours” format, I’m sure we could look at that. We have been communicating with the BMA.”
NHS organisations have thus demanded that the data should be calculated at the level of each of the 44 sustainability and transformation plan regions going forward.
Clearly there is a gap between the data being presented to the NHS authorities and the reality.