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.’