GPs have warned of ‘intense workload and workforce pressures’ as practices have offered millions of appointments more per month than in 2019, despite the number of GPs continuing to fall.
New NHS data published today shows 29.7 million appointments were estimated to have been delivered by practices and primary care networks in June and were recorded in GP practice appointment systems.
Similar workforce data for December 2019 shows that 24 million appointments were estimated to have been carried out by practices in a month.
Separate figures also published today show that there are now 977 fewer fully-qualified GPs than in December 2019.
They show that there were 27,153 FTE fully-qualified GPs last month, down from 28,129 at the end of 2019.
Despite this, last month 43.3% of appointments took place on the same day that they were booked, the figures show.
RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘These latest figures show yet again the true extent of both the workforce and workload crises our GPs are having to cope with in their provision of safe, timely and appropriate care to their patients.
‘Our teams have been working continuously under intense workload and workforce pressures in recent years, but the latest data shows just how serious these pressures have become.
‘Demand for our services has grown significantly, we’re now dealing with over five million more appointments a month than in December 2019 – around 70% of which were carried out face to face – but with 977 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs.’
She said that GPs have seen the volume of their workloads ‘snowball and have also seen the nature of appointments become more complex’, with a growing number of patients needing care for multiple or chronic conditions.
‘Many GPs are experiencing burnout, low morale and a sense of moral distress at not being able to offer patients access to much-needed care,’ she added.
‘While there is hope that this situation can be turned around, it is evident that general practice is being pushed closer towards the precipice.
‘The trends we’ve seen over the past year can’t be allowed to continue if we want general practice to survive and our patients to receive the care they need and deserve – we need immediate action.’
Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation said: ‘In spite of all the surrounding pressures the service has faced in recent months, these figures show how hard GPs and their staff are working for their patients.
‘While general practice continues to work above and beyond, they are still continuing to do this amidst the repetitive cycle of drops in fully qualified GPs and number of practices.’
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: ‘The government has cut the number of GPs, leaving millions facing distressing delays of more than two weeks.
‘Patients right across the country are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one. That has devastating consequences for their health, and is putting huge extra pressure on ambulances and hospitals too.
‘Everyone should be able to see their GP when they need to. Our new guarantee would not only end these long waits, but also reduce the pressure on hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.’