We aimed to investigate the number and distribution of general practitioners (GPs) in China, and to predict the number of GPs needed in the future.
Methods: From China Health Statistics Yearbook 2014, China Health Statistics Yearbook 2016 and China Statistical Yearbook 2016, we obtained the number of GPs and the populations in China and each of its regions from 2012 to 2015. IBM SPSS Statistics version 22.0 was used to conduct descriptive statistical analysis. Grey model GM(1, 1) and the manpower-to-population ratio method were used to predict the number of GPs needed in China from 2016 to 2020.
Results: The total number of GPs in China was 109,794 in 2012, 145,511 in 2013, 172,597 in 2014, and 188,649 in 2015. The number increased by 78,855 from 2012 to 2015, and the average annual growth rate was 19.77%. By the end of 2015, of the GPs in all of China and in eastern, central, and western China, those who had achieved a GP qualification certificate following training accounted for 63.76% (120,285/188,649), 60.06% (62,474/104,015), 65.20% (29,565/45,344), and 71.89% (28,246/39,290), respectively, of the total. The number of GPs per 10,000 population in all of China and in eastern, central, and western China was 1.37, 1.83, 1.05, and 1.06, respectively, and the number of GPs needed for all of China and the eastern, central, and western parts would be 86,275, 9787, 40,764, and 34,976, respectively, calculated on the basis of the standard of two GPs per 10,000 population. Grey model GM(1, 1) predicted that, in accordance with the natural growth trend of GPs, the number of GPs in China would be 220,314 in 2016, 253,728 in 2017, 293,101 in 2018, 339,928 in 2019, and 396,228 in 2020. Moreover, the number of GPs in China in 2020 would be 277,000‐415,500 if the calculated number of GPs to the population ratio is based on the standard of two to three GPs per 10,000 population.
Conclusion: In recent years, although the number of GPs has increased rapidly, GPs are still greatly needed in all of China and in eastern, central, and western China. Moreover, the distribution of GPs is not balanced, and the number of qualified GPs is far from enough. Therefore, team building for GPs should be strengthened, and the training system for GPs should be improved.