Panorama: What has labour done for the NHS?
BBC One, Sunday, 20 February 2005, 22:15 GMT
As part of the "NHS Plan", the government pledged to increase GP numbers in England by 2000 by the year 2004 and claims it met this target early, in December 2003. The graph for GP numbers on this page, commissioned as part of research for Panorama, appears to show that they have.
Department of Health (DoH) figures show that the numbers of GPs have been rising steadily, since the early 1990s, but in the last two years they have risen much more steeply. But the experts say that some doctors already working for the NHS have been counted as new to the service.
Since March 2003 GPs working under a new Flexible Career Scheme have been counted. The government says the scheme has attracted GPs back into the NHS, or from other areas of employment, and helped to retain GPs who might otherwise have left the NHS.
Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist at the King's Fund, says that
"... what we find when we finally look at the figures closely, and this is just reported by the Department of Health itself but in very small footnotes to their data tables, that they've added in some... some GPs who previously hadn't been counted, although did exist within the system".
The Department of Health told Panorama that its figures are a "fair reflection of the growth in the number of GPs working substantively in the NHS" but that it doesn't collect figures for the numbers of GPs who have moved from existing positions within the NHS to recruitment schemes, that are now counted in the NHS plan targets.
The graph below shows the rate of change of NHS employees since 1992. The numbers of NHS managers have grown by a third under Labour
The graph shows an index of change for NHS Employees
All the data analysed for this programme refer to England.