17 Oct 23 by James Pullin
Publicly funded GP practices, which make up the bulk of the provision of GP services in the UK, have come under growing pressure due to a combination of slower growth in government funding and rising demand for GP services from an expanding and ageing population. This has limited revenue and affects the recruitment and retention of GPs.
Provision of GP services in the UK
According to the BMA, as of August 2023, there were 36,572 individual fully qualified GPs working in the NHS in England. In Full Time Equivalent terms of 37.5 hours a week, this equates to 27,246 full-time fully qualified GPs. The overall number of GPs has seen little growth since 2015, with the number of GP partners declining significantly over that time. For international comparison, England has around 7.8 GPs per 10,000 people, compared to the OECD average of 10.8. England would need an additional 16,700 GPs to be on equal footing with the OECD average.
The government has encouraged more private doctors to enter the industry to relieve some of the pressure on the system and introduce competition to encourage efficiency improvements but its target of employing 6,000 GPs by 2024 will not be met. As of August 2023, BMA data shows we now have the equivalent of 2,118 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs compared to the September 2015 baseline making the provision of GP services in the UK much harder.
COVID-19 took its toll on GP’s performance in 2020-21, with a 41.8% decline in appointments due to social distancing measures between January 2020 and April 2020, according to NHS Digital. Revenue has since bounced back in the three years through 2023-24 as demand continues to surge, increasing 2.6% to £15.7 billion, with many people being more confident to come forward for care, now the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared over by WHO.
The industry is forecast to continue consolidating, with more efficient clinics taking over and smaller, partner-owned practices merging. As a result, enterprise and establishment numbers are both projected to fall at a compound annual rate of 0.7% over the five years through 2027-28. Private primary healthcare providers are expected to benefit from pressure on public supply of services, increased outsourcing and greater public willingness to spend money on health services as disposable incomes improve. This is expected to support profit margins over the next few years.
Vickery Holman acts for GP Surgeries across the South West, providing a range of property and funding related services. Our Healthcare team also supports the wider sector including care homes, dentists and vets with valuation, rent review, business rates and building advice. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Healthcare specialist team if you think we could be of assistance.