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Numbers of GP consultations on the rise

By Lilian Anekwe

General practice consultations in England have risen from 217.3 million in 1995 to 300.4 million in 2008, according to new figures.

A typical GP practice in England conducted 34,200 consultations in 2008, compared with 21,100 in 1995, and saw patients an average of 5.5 times a year compared with 3.9 in 1995, data published by the NHS Information Centre show.

The study was conducted using the QResearch database of nearly 600 general practices and shows a change in the proportion of patients seen by nurses in primary care.

In 1995, 76% of consultations were with GPs while 21% were given by nurses and 3% by other primary care staff.

However by 2008, the proportion of consultations with GPs had fallen to 62%, while nurse consultations rose to 34% and those with other staff rose by 1%.

Telephone consultations have quadrupled from 3% to 12%, while homes visits fell from 9% to 4%, which may reflect the change in out-of-hours care provision over the analysis period.

The highest consultation rates were seen in the elderly, at 13.8 and 13.3 consultations per person per year in the 85-89 year old age group.

Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox and Dr Yana Vinogradova, researchers at the University of Nottingham who compiled the data, said the study did not take account of the complexity of consultations, prescribing or referral rates, which are all likely to have increased over the last 14 years.

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