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Last month saw GPs deliver the highest number of consultations on record


GPs carry out record number of appointments


March saw GPs in England deliver the highest number of patient consultations since records began, NHS Digital has revealed.

GPs themselves delivered 15.1m appointments in March – the most since the current GP appointments dataset began in October 2019.

This compares with the previous high of 14.9m in November 2021 and 12.9m in February this year.

GP practice appointments as a whole – delivered by the whole practice team – also saw a sharp rise compared with the previous month.

In March, practices provided 30.1m appointments including Covid vaccinations, up 17% from 25.7m in February.

However, Covid jabs only rose by 0.1m, meaning the bulk of the increase was made up by other types of appointments. 

Excluding Covid vaccinations, practices delivered 29.7m appointments in March, compared with 25.4m in February.

NHS Digital today announced that the experimental statistics now include three new measures:

  • Figures on the duration of consultations in minutes
  • Further detail on type of appointment, such as whether it involved the patient directly or was clinical activity on their behalf and a breakdown into categories such as routine general consultation, planned clinic or home visit
  • More detail on which healthcare professional led the appointment if they were not a GP

However, it warned that the data quality is variable as some of these are recorded differently depending on practices’ system suppliers and said it was working to ‘address’ this.

Responding to today’s publication of both new appointment and GP workforce data, the BMA said the rise in appointments coupled with a continued downward ‘spiral’ in the GP workforce is ‘untenable’ for practices.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, BMA GP committee for England deputy chair, said: ‘Last month appointments in England were up by 4 million – while GP numbers continued to spiral downwards. 

‘This is completely untenable for practices, for GPs and for patients.’

He added: ‘This trend of demand rocketing while we haemorrhage doctors is pushing the remaining staff to breaking point as they take on more and more each day, to a point which is not safe for them and certainly not safe for patients.

‘While today’s figures demonstrate practice staff going above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients, working at these unsafe levels is not sustainable and will only drive more GPs away from the profession – leaving more patients without their family doctor.

‘We urgently need the Government and policymakers to listen to the alarm bells being rung by practices around the country, and work with the profession to come to solutions that ease the pressures, turn the tide on the exodus of GPs and enable them to provide safe care that patients deserve.’

It comes as Pulse this week revealed that the average waiting time for a non-urgent, face-to-face appointment is 10 days – quicker than before the Covid pandemic.

And the RCGP chair told GPs at Pulse’s flagship conference in London that the long-standing row over the shift towards remote consulting in GP practices has now ‘settled down’.

Meanwhile, GPs attending the annual conference of UK local medical committees (LMCs) next month will vote on policy to reduce core GP hours to 9am until 5pm.

READERS' COMMENTS [5]

Andrew Jackson 28 April, 2022 12:51 pm

Bone idle GPs profiteering from the core contract

Patrufini Duffy 28 April, 2022 2:36 pm

I think some did:
27 panic attacks (Sunday night induced)
15 palpitations (unrelated to cannabis or cocaine)
4 ugly toenails (pre-holiday)
13 delay periods (pre-holiday)
14 last minute pills (pre-holiday)
17 moles (that never changed, check pre-holiday)
15 sore throats (post-weekend)
7 long covids (still in the news, so better book in)
18 celebrity scare lymph nodes (that disappear to touch)
32 UTIs (post-holiday)
11 dandruffs (going back to office)
74 lower back pains (working from home)
27 knee pains (new runners, apres-ski)
12 acnes (need solving before summer)
8 cold sores (all emergencies)
7 pruritus ani (gym doesn’t have towels)
18 tinea (gym doesn’t have towels)
32 STIs (GUM were busy)
66 bloated (eating and toileting is a chore)
126 admin issues (the hospital secretaries are on answer phone).
19 NHS app queries (they want to go on holiday).
Unknown number (life is boring and you’re a free chat).

Anything missed?

Kevlar Cardie 28 April, 2022 3:24 pm

30 DNA hospital OP clinic appointments , basically because they’re feckless, idle, salad/ soap/work dodgers but now “It’s AGONISING (it’s always agony , isn’t it ? Never, “quite painful”) and I need it sorting out yesterday.

15 I need a “fit to skydive/ bungee jump/ compete in a car rally/ join the local swingers club” medical in 5 days. It’s URGENT.

4 Lorraine on the telly said that if I’ve got these same symptoms then I’ve get to get seen urgently by my GP.

1 “Please will you co-partner my perpetual motion machine invention. I’m really worried that the CIA will bump me off”.

And on , and on, and on …

Patrufini Duffy 28 April, 2022 5:16 pm

Yes Kevlar.
I’m not sure if Lorraine, or Loose Women or Good Morning banter, gets the emergency prioritisation for 9am slots. The One Show and EastEnders banter are nailed on for the 11.20 “Face to Blank stare” consultation one suspects. Free doesn’t have to be meaningful does it, never was, never is.

Jamal Hussain 1 May, 2022 8:45 am

The government asked general practice to stop being so lazy and pull its collective finger out and provide more appointments for the customers. And General Practice regardless of this, that and the other which they’d spent so much time moaning about managed to deliver a record number of appointments. Now that the Government’s point has been proved I trust we will see similar numbers next month and GPs will spend less time moaning about this, that and the other and more time seeing patients like last month. The numbers may not be correct and may have been completely doctored but the Governments point has been made so that’s all good then.