One in six positions are now unfilled which is placing an ‘intolerable pressure’ on services, doctors groups have warned.
The annual vacancy survey of GPs by the magazine Pulse found that 15.3 per cent of positions are currently empty, up from 12.2 per cent last year and 11.7 per cent in 2016.
GPs reported that inability to recruit and funding shortages have also forced many practices to cut GP positions, relying on non-GP staff and forcing practices to close patient lists.
Recent figures showed that 1,000 GPs have left the workforce since 2015, leaving the government struggling to meet its target of recruiting 5,000 new doctors by 2020.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: "Almost every surgery in England is now one GP short, at least, and the implications of this are very serious for the wellbeing of our GPs and wider practice teams, and for the provision of safe, high-quality patient care.
"Workload in general practice has risen by at least 16% over the last seven years, but the proportion of NHS spending on general practice remains lower than a decade ago and GP numbers have not kept pace with demand.
"When a practice can’t recruit, we often have no choice but to rely on locum staff, at a greater cost which adds further pressure to pressures. But we know that in some areas, the GPs simply aren’t there to employ in any capacity and we are also very short of other allied healthcare professionals in the community – especially experienced practice nursing staff."
Dr Richard Vautrey chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, unfilled vacancies have created ‘unmanageable’ workloads.
“The fact that so many surgeries are unable to recruit GPs provides yet more evidence of the scale of the crisis impacting general practice,” he said.
“The Government must prioritise general practice and urgently invest in it to address this growing crisis which is threatening to undermine the foundation on which the wider NHS is built. We cannot allow a situation where patient safety is being compromised by a lack of political action.”