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GP patient contacts increase by 10%, survey suggests

GP practices responding to a snapshot survey have seen a 10% increase in patient contacts in the first half of 2016/17, compared to the same time two years ago.

The King’s Fund, which surveyed some 129 GP partners and practice managers as part of its quarterly monitoring report, found that there was especially an increase in telephone consultations.

The think-tank said that ’the number of patient contacts with GPs has changed significantly over the past two years’, including ’a 9.9% increase in contacts with patients in quarters one and two of 2016/17 compared to the same period in 2014/15’.

It said this could be partly attributed to a 5% increase in the registered patient list size in its sample of practices.

But the report also said ’activity is being shifted away from face-to-face contacts towards telephone activity’, with ’face-to-face contacts falling from an average of 92% of activity in quarters one and two 2014/15 to 89.5% in quarters one and two 2016/17’.

In response to pressures, the think-tank found that 45% of respondents said that they ‘planned to end the provision of unfunded services’ that were no included in core contracts, such as ‘ECG recording, spirometry and post-operation suture removal’.

Other findings of the quarterly report, for which the King’s Fund regularly surveys a cohort of NHS trust and CCG managers, included 9.4% of A&E waits lasting more than four hours, ’which is the worst performance for this time of year for more than a decade’; and 9.4% of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to begin hospital treatment – ‘the worst performance since targets were revised in 2012’.

King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: ‘The NHS is treating more patients than ever before, and these findings show that rising demand is putting its services under increasing pressure.’