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ONS: Rise in demand for GP appointments pushed up GDP

GP GDP

A ‘large rise in GP appointments’ was a main contributor to UK economic growth in May, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today.

The UK’s monthly gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.5% in May, mainly driven by services activities.

The services growth ‘was driven by human health activities, which increased by 2.5% following a fall of 7.6% in April 2022’, the ONS said.

And this, in turn, ‘was mainly driven by a large rise (15%) in GP appointments in England’.

The ONS said this increased GP demand also managed to ‘offset the continued scaling down of the NHS test and trace and Covid-19 vaccination programmes’, which saw a 44% fall in activity in May.

The ONS added that monthly GDP is now estimated to be 1.7% above pre-pandemic levels, and it comes despite the cost-of-living crisis causing a 0.5% fall in retail trade in May.

The BMA said the data was ‘yet more evidence if it were needed that general practice is working harder than ever’.

The latest GP appointment data, published by NHS Digital last month, showed that GP practices delivered an estimated 28.3m appointments in May this year including Covid vaccinations.

NHS Digital data previously revealed that March saw GPs in England deliver the highest number of patient consultations since records began.

Dr Farah Jameel, chair of BMA’s GP Committee for England, said: ‘These figures are yet another example of how hard GPs and their teams are working, but also why we desperately need more resource to close the workforce gap in primary care.

‘It’s clear that GP services are good value for money – GPs are not paid extra for doing more work, and yet, the number of standard GP appointments booked has substantially increased, with 24 million appointments in April 2022 jumping to a staggering 27.6 million in May.

‘However, we cannot ignore the fact that this is not a sustainable way of working, and that GPs desperately need more support if they’re going to be able to carry on providing this level of care. We don’t have enough of them, and each time a GP takes on more work, they open themselves up to more stress, burn out, and exhaustion – potentially having to reduce their hours or leave the profession altogether. This creates a viscous cycle of even fewer GPs, and ultimately threatens safe patient care.

‘Our new health secretary has the opportunity to put right the wrongs done to general practice, and the wider NHS, by giving it the appropriate funding and resources it so desperately needs to close the growing workforce gap and safely meet patient demand. All doctors want to do is give the best care they can, but without proper support, this is becoming increasingly hard to do.’

READERS' COMMENTS [13]

Turn out The Lights 13 July, 2022 1:52 pm

Irony the swivel eyed right wing loons alway say the public sector doesn’t contribute to the wealth of the uk.

Vinci Ho 13 July, 2022 2:06 pm

You wonder if any of the eight candidates running for PM will immediately jump to this is they survive today voting for second round? Agent Hunt , perhaps ?🤨😈

HELEN RYAN 13 July, 2022 2:20 pm

Rising GDP means more jobs are likely to be created, and workers are more likely to get better pay rises – wonder if this applies to GPs!

Thomas Robinson 13 July, 2022 4:19 pm

Pulse is a really useful way to keep abreast of things post retirement when questions and issues still keep coming.

Can anyone explain this article ?

GDP is a sum of money, x pounds or rather billions of pounds.A GP is paid a capitation sum.if the patient consults daily the sum remains the same.So how can increased GP activity increase GDP.

Thomas Robinson 13 July, 2022 7:28 pm

Cheers, interesting article but;

The service is a year of consultations whether that is 1 or 100

The fee is the capitation fee, that does not change

So the increase in consultations should not have any effect on GDP or am I missing something here. ?

David Church 13 July, 2022 8:12 pm

I think we are all missing something, Thomas.
You are quite right in that GP appointment numbers is not really a sign of economic growth! It is actually a sign of population ill-health, and thus economic recesssion!!!
Nobody has mentioned either that there were more GP appointments available in May than April for 2 reasons:
1) I count that there were 2 more working days in May (21) than in April (19), so it is no surprise.
2) school easter holidays being in April, more GPs would take leave, meaning there were less GPs, on average, available to do appointments in April than in May.
3) I do not know without significant trawling, but when exactly coincides with people booking and going on foreign holidays, and needing to access non-GMS ‘paid-for’ services from GPs, like certificates and insurance forms, etc??

Patrufini Duffy 13 July, 2022 9:16 pm

But the public love their dentist. 5* reviews.

Keith Greenish 14 July, 2022 8:14 am

Statistics statistics and damn lies

Dylan Summers 14 July, 2022 9:19 am

A small quibble with the headline:

I don’t think the report says specifically that “demand” for GP appointments has increased. It says that the number of appointments have increased. This might be due to increased demand, increased supply or both.

Simon Gilbert 14 July, 2022 10:20 am

“Statisticians use notional activity measures to make up for state capitated industry not showing up in misguided Keynesian measure of economic success.”

In other news, foreshadowing the future work of UK General Practitioners, Keynes also suggested increasing economic activity by:

“The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up.”

Finola ONeill 14 July, 2022 1:42 pm

GP appts drive prescriptions, NHS and OTC referrals including self referrals to nhs and private services eg physio, dentists, etc. Basically we drive a lot of down stream work. So no reasons to assume because of capitation, ie we get no extra cash, means that every other person and their uncle don’t get get cash generated from our work.
We are the only twats stupid enough to work for a capitated rate; everyone else has more sense and gets paid per service, etc.
Also “The services growth ‘was driven by human health activities, which increased by 2.5% following a fall of 7.6% in April 2022’, the ONS said.. And this, in turn, ‘was mainly driven by a large rise (15%) in GP appointments in England’.”
I suspect ONS, as they specialise in statistics, know the difference between confounding correlation and causative correlation.
You would hope.
But certainly the arguments that just because we have capitated payments our increased activity hasn’t driven GDP rise. It’s just we will have been the only people whose income didn’t increase with increased activity.
And therein lies the problem.
One which I hope we eventually grow some gonads and insist changes.
Preferably through unilateral withdrawal from PCN DES, with enforced redirection of PCN payments into core contracts.
Using industrial action to motivate NHSE/govt if necessary.
Then that 40% ARRS roles that is currently not coming our way, not sure where it does go?
We can get that too.
And those blocked out clinics while partners attend frequent PCN meeting so GPs too can turn into twatty bureaucrats while signing up for ever increasing work we don’t get paid for.
That can end too.

Vinci Ho 15 July, 2022 7:02 am

The other incidental anomaly is the Office of National Statistics(ONS)’s report on rise in GDP for May contributed by rise in GP appointments and travel activities.
To me , while one can immediately argue the importance of recognising the role of GP in contributing to our economy( some are understandably sceptical about this)the government and politicians are to become even more obsessed in squeezing more appointments(particularly face to face because of involving patient’s journey to and fro surgery generating economic activities)from a seriously exasperated GP workforce. And the denial of a GP crisis recently by a health minister is only the face value of this underlying agenda .
For those who are representing us on negotiation table, please use your wit very carefully in looking at this matter .
And by the way , there is indeed a swathe of reports on this rise in GDP linked to GP appointments.
‘’GDP is the sum of all goods and services produced in the economy, including sectors such as health, education and government. The economic contribution of GP visits and other health services where there is no market price is estimated by statisticians by counting activity.’’ quote from Guardian
https://amp.theguardian.com/business/2022/jul/13/uk-economy-returns-to-growth-thanks-to-holiday-boom-and-gp-visits