Recruitment, retention, and time commitment change of general practitioners in England and Wales, 1990-4: A retrospective study
Objectives: To describe the recruitment and retention of general practitioners and changes in their time commitment from 1 October 1990 to 1 October 1994. Design: Retrospective analysis of yearly data. Setting: England and Wales. Subjects: General practitioners in unrestricted practice. Main outcome measures: Numbers of general practitioners moving into and out of general practice; proportion of general practitioners practising less than full time; proportion of general practitioners having unchanged time commitment over the study period; and proportion of general practitioners leaving general practice in 1991 who were subsequently practising in 1994. Results: Numbers of general practitioners entering general practice (1565 in 1990, 1400 in 1994) fell over the study period as did the numbers leaving general practice (1488 in 1990, 1115 in 1994). The net effect was an increase in both the total and full time equivalent general practitioners practising from 1 October 1990 (26,757 full time equivalents) to 1 October 1994 (21,063 full time equivalents). Numbers of general practitioners practising full time were decreasing whereas part time practice was increasing; women were more likely to practise part time. 35.5% (43/121) of women practising full time and 17.8% (24/135) of men practising full time who left practice in 1991 were practising again in 1994. Conclusion: Simply using total numbers of general practitioners or net increase to describe workforce trends masks much movement in and out of general practice and between differing time commitments. Recruitment and retention issues need to be separated if reasonable policies are to be developed to assure the necessary general practitioner workforce for a primary care led NHS.