GP practices in England saw five million more patients in August this year compared to the same month last year, according to the latest data.
NHS Digital GP appointment data for August, published today, has revealed that an estimated 25.5 million appointments took place, including 1.5 million Covid vaccinations.
This compares with 20.4 million in August 2020, when Covid vaccinations had not yet been rolled out – representing an increase of 25%.
If Covid vaccine appointments are discounted, GPs still saw a 17% rise in the number of appointments compared with last year – up from an estimated 20.4 million in August 2020 to 23.9 million last month.
The data also show an increase in the proportion of appointments that were delivered face to face of almost one percentage point compared with July, rising from 56.9% to 57.7%.
The proportion of face-to-face appointments rose six percentage points compared with August last year, when 51.6% of appointments were in person.
Almost eight in 10 (79.5%) had been face to face before the pandemic in August 2019.
The RCGP said the recent increase in face-to-face appointments shows it is a ‘misconception’ that GPs aren’t seeing patients in person and stressed that it comes ‘against a backdrop of intense workload and workforce pressures in general practice’.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Today’s figures show that it’s a misconception that GPs and other members of our team aren’t seeing patients face-to-face.
‘Huge numbers of GP appointments are being made every day, almost half on the same day they are booked, with a higher proportion being made in person in August than July and all in line with infection control measures to keep patients safe. This is against a backdrop of intense workload and workforce pressures in general practice.’
He urged the Government to ‘address the “undoable” workload in general practice that is leading to trained family doctors leaving the profession earlier than planned’ and to deliver on its promises to bolster the GP workforce.
The BMA added that the figures ‘show that GPs are working harder than ever and dealing with even more patients than before the pandemic’.
BMA GP Committee deputy chair Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: ‘GPs are doing their best to give as many patients as possible the appointments they need safely, against a backdrop of a shortage of GPs, all the while still working within the national guidance of infection control and social distancing measures.’
He added: ‘Every part of the NHS is under an immense burden like never before. Waiting lists, a huge backlog and many people needing their GPs who have been waiting so as not to overload general practice – all these factors layered together give us a crisis in healthcare.
‘Covid is still impacting GPs and their teams with staff absences, having to cope with small waiting rooms and now an earlier than normal increase in respiratory viruses piling on even more pressure.’
The figures also showed:
- 46% of appointments took place on the same day they were booked, compared with 50.5% in August last year and 42% in 2019
- There was no change in the proportion of appointments conducted by a GP since before the pandemic, which has remained stable at 52% for three years running
- There were around 300 fewer ‘open active’ practices last month compared with August 2019, with numbers falling from 6,873 to 6,583.
More to follow…