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Publication, Part of

General Practice Workforce, 31 March 2022

Official statistics

Current Chapter

Introduction to General Practice Workforce Statistics


Introduction to General Practice Workforce Statistics

Background/overview

These General Practice Workforce statistics were first published following the creation of the workforce Minimum Data Set (wMDS) in September 2015. Figures produced before September 2015 were based upon a different, less detailed data set, and are not comparable with any figures in this series although they are available on our website for reference purposes. Please refer to the Data sources section below for more information. 

The majority of these figures are a snapshot of the workforce and relate to the last calendar day in the reporting period. We also publish some information separately in Annexes B and C of the Excel tables about the number of people working as GP locums in a short-term and/or short-notice capacity. We refer to these GPs as ad-hoc locums and information about them is collected and processed differently to the rest of the workforce meaning figures are not directly comparable. Please refer to the section about locum GPs in Using this publication for more information about this. 

Not all general practices provide valid data. In some cases, practices provide details about a staff member but no information about their working hours. In these cases, we calculate full-time equivalent (FTE) estimates for these staff and include these measures in the FTE totals and in the Practice-level and Individual-level CSVs that accompany the publication. We refer to these estimated working hours and FTE figures as ‘partial estimates’ and provide details of the percentage of estimated working hours for each staff group in Annex A of the Excel Bulletin table. 

However, in some cases, practices provide no valid data whatsoever for an entire staff group (GPs, Nurses, Direct Patient Care (DPC) or administrative staff). We have calculated CCG-level estimates for these practices based upon a level of perceived need according to the number of patients registered at the practice. This type of estimation was temporarily removed between June 2021 and November 2021, but reinstated for the December 2021 release with an improved methodology. The improvements include only now estimating for practices providing no valid DPC data when they are also missing at least one other staff group. See Methodology Review and Changes in the December 2021 publication for more information. All figures back to September 2015 have been revised to include these estimates.

General Practices

This publication presents workforce information for all staff working at a traditional General Practice, which is defined as “an organisation which offers Primary Care medical services by a qualified General Practitioner who can prescribe medicine and where patients can be registered and held on a list.” Generally, the term General Practice describes what is traditionally thought of to be a high street doctor’s surgery and does not include Prisons, Army Bases, Educational Establishments, Specialist Care Centres including Drug Rehabilitation Units, Walk-In Centres, or other alternative settings such as urgent treatment centres and minor injury units. 

GPs outside General Practice

GPs are qualified doctors whose specialism is General Practice. However, not all GPs are based in general practices; some work in Hospital and Community Health Services (HCHS), the independent sector or elsewhere and are not included in this publication. We collect and publish data about the workforce in the HCHS settings in the NHS Workforce Statistics series and the Independent Healthcare Provider Workforce Statistics series. 


Primary Care Networks

Since July 2019, General Practices have been joining with other health and care providers to form Primary Care Networks (PCNs) which deliver accessible and integrated primary, mental health, and community care to patients, and aim to reduce the need for hospital treatment. Practices continue to hold their individual contracts and responsibilities but work collaboratively with their PCN partners. 

The PCN workforce is separate and distinct from the General Practice workforce, although they have several common roles, primarily in the Direct Patient Care (DPC) staff group and some individuals will work in both types of organisations. 

All PCNs are required to have a suitably qualified accountable person to act as the clinical director. This post is usually filled by a GP, nurse, or another direct care professional and typically requires a commitment of 0.25 FTE. PCNs employ GPs or nurses in the capacity of clinical directors - they may also employ GPs or nurses to deliver patient care.

We have been collecting and publishing information about staff working for PCNs since March 2020.


Data Sources

The following data sources are used to produce these statistics. 

  • We use the workforce Minimum Data Set (wMDS), which we collect directly from general practices using the National Workforce Reporting Service (NWRS). In July 2021, we introduced a new version of the NWRS. The new NWRS is easier to use and has been designed with direct feedback from users.  The aim is to make the task as simple and efficient as possible to help minimise the burden placed upon practices and Primary Care Networks. The NWRS is an online tool that general practices and Primary Care Networks (PCNs) use to enter individual record-level data about their GP, nursing, Direct Patient Care and administrative workforces.  This collection provides details of all general practice-based staff except GPs in training (also referred to as GP Registrars).  
    • Until January 2019, four Health Education England (HEE) regions collected workforce data directly from the general practices in their areas and sent the collated data sets to us. The NWRS has included data from the practices covered by these HEE regions since the March 2019 data collection, making NWRS the main data source for the general practice workforce. 
      • For the first collection in September 2015 received data from only three of the HEE regions so the data set is less complete than for later periods. 
    • Practices use a special section in the NWRS to provide information and working-hours details for GPs working as ad-hoc locums during the reporting period. This is a subset of the wMDS as we collect only the GP name, GMC number and total hours worked during the period. 

      For a list of the data items collected by NWRS, please refer to the Glossary and definitions section. 
       
  • Details about GPs in training (sometimes known as GP registrars) are provided by Health Education England's (HEE) Trainee Information System (TIS) which has been our primary source for this data since June 2018. See GPs in training under Using this publication for more information about the transition to this data source and estimates applied to GP in training figures prior to June 2018.
     
  • General Medical Council Register 
    This provides demographic information about the GP workforce such as country of qualification.  
     
  • Reference data relating to general practices and PCNs held by the Organisation Data Service at NHS Digital. 

Publication frequency

Until September 2015, information about the general practice workforce was published annually and was effective as of 30 September each year, which was the traditional census date for NHS workforce collections. 

The establishment of the new wMDS collection has allowed us to produce more frequent and timely information about the general practice workforce. Initially, the statistics were produced every six months for the entire workforce, with additional quarterly releases focussing only on GPs in December 2016 and June 2017. From September 2017, figures were published quarterly for the entire general practice workforce. 

From July 2021, the General Practice Workforce series have been released monthly. 

Previous data sources

The current series of Official Statistics relating to the general practice workforce has been produced since September 2015 when the workforce Minimum Data Set (wMDS) was introduced. The wMDS was a new dataset  which was intended to provide more complete and higher quality data to support workforce planning, recruitment, and retention. 

Prior to 2015, data about GPs was taken from the National Health Application and Infrastructure Services (NHAIS, also known as Exeter) General Practice Payments System. This was a computerised payment system for General Medical Practitioners in England and was the main source of General Practice and GP information, as it included person-level details such as name and date of birth for each GP. Additional information about individual GPs that was not recorded in NHAIS was supplied manually by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) via secure electronic data transfer. 

Before we implemented the wMDS collection, information about Nurses, Direct Patient Care and administrative staff was far less detailed and was provided at a practice-level as aggregate summary figures by the applicable Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). Prior to 2010, aggregated General Practice staff information was collected at Primary Care Trust level and the completeness and coverage of these older returns is unclear. 

We have been using the wMDS as the primary data source for our General Practice Workforce Official Statistics since September 2015. It is important to note that figures based upon wMDS are not comparable with earlier statistics that were calculated from a different data set. 

Statistics relating to the general practice workforce produced using wMDS and the preceding data source are available.



Last edited: 18 May 2022 2:04 pm