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GPs warn of ‘intense’ workload and workforce crisis as FTE numbers continue to fall

GPs warn of ‘intense’ workload and workforce crisis as FTE numbers continue to fall

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.’

Earlier this month, the BMA’s GP Committee for England said that only a ‘massive investment’ in general practice will turn around the lowest patient satisfaction ratings in six years.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Some Bloke 27 July, 2023 4:00 pm

pearl of this morning surgery: a fit and well pensioner came for “full check up”, very full, whatever that is- can’t be too careful and to be sure nothing could possibly go wrong when he visits his son with family in Australia in a couple of months. Insisted on further investigations too, whatever these are in the absence of any symptoms or any abnormal physical findings. All long term conditions checks already been done and normal. I would have had some sympathy with that request had I not known that the b..ard had manipulated the system to get an emergency same day appointment. Should have told him to off somewhere, but guess I am too kind and timid for that.
Before that, and 85 y o lady with “agonising knee pain”, turns out it’s been like this only for the past 15-20 years, and is not agonising enough to consider her take even paracetamol. But she is going on a cruise in a few weeks where she expects to do some dancing, so she was wandering if I could give her some of those steroidy injection things that had worked so well for her neighbour, Mabel was her name. Also, of cause same day emergency.
are they all nuts or is there something wrong with my perception?

Ian King 27 July, 2023 4:33 pm

System now designed so we see the same cohort of regular attenders more and more and more frequently. This means the vulnerable frail get less and less of a look in. Still, as long as the numbers are going up it’s a success .

Douglas Callow 27 July, 2023 4:52 pm

all you can eat BOGOF All inclusive Get the care you deserve and insist on what you are entitled to
will all backfire spectacularly

Ian Haczewski 27 July, 2023 6:11 pm

A chap came in at 82 put his hand on the desk and said he wanted stem cell injections so his papery thin skin could back to how it was when he’s was 20 !!
Had another who asked me why we were still having holidays while “this NHS crisis “ was still going on and should we be having any time off at all at the moment?

Centreground Centreground 27 July, 2023 6:12 pm

The Government believes appointment number increases are a resounding success – we book in with all our ARR roles some on around 50 k per year- could not contact patient in 20min appointment rebooked for another 20mins and could not contact them again passed to someone else who used 20mins appt to book a ‘proper structured medication review’ . Therefore 80minutes in total so actual cost of ARR staff £200,000 per year for these appointment types. GP appointments usually turn up for their 10min appts and would have been done and dusted first time but no, continue to encourage GPs to leave and employ ARR staff at much lower costs in salary terms whereas in reality actually increasing NHS costs by 300 to 400% for the same work output or usually less!
We haven’t even mentioned all the time off for training anytime a new word comes up and requires an entire training session!

Rhys Evans 27 July, 2023 6:18 pm

Well neither of them are nuts enough to be a GP. Maybe that answers your question.

Keith M Laycock 27 July, 2023 6:33 pm

Assuming that the figures relate to the UK as a whole, how can 44% (29.7 million) of the population (67.7 million) need a medical appointment in a single month (June)?

Anonymous 27 July, 2023 7:10 pm

They count the HCA appointments for bloods, noctor appointment ‘to discuss results’, all DNAs and double slots twice.

No accountability for ARRS staff, nobody gives a toss they are happy to hang up the phone after 5 seconds and rebook for next week.

John Graham Munro 27 July, 2023 7:16 pm

Stop moaning———— go on strike

Some Bloke 27 July, 2023 10:36 pm

We should strike! But my guess – we won’t. Time for asymmetrical action

Turn out The Lights 28 July, 2023 8:11 am

Assymetrical action is happening,doesnt matter haow many shiney new tractors they make the FTE gp number will keep falling.

Dr No 28 July, 2023 8:26 am

Prof KH is guilty of understatement, but language does matter. We are not “approaching” a precipice, we are over it. In free-fall. This frog is boiled. Primary Care is properly broken already! Patients know this. I see real harm every single day and it’s getting worse.

Cameron Wilson 28 July, 2023 9:49 am

And despite all this, the BMA can’t consider a Plan B!

John Graham Munro 28 July, 2023 10:13 am

Do you need Training to be a Trainer?———-just asking

Stephen Fowler 28 July, 2023 11:22 am

Nearly half the population of the UK consulting every month – there is something radically wrong with our system.

I’m afraid charging, even a nominal amount, is the only way demand will ever stabilise or reduce – I’m sure the man wanting stem cell injections for his thin skin would have thought twice if faced with a £10 fee to book the appointment.

Other countries seem to manage this without vunerable patients falling by the wayside.

Decorum Est 28 July, 2023 1:05 pm

Desperate times – causes ‘shit life syndrome’ – but at least have an ‘all you can eat’ for free healthcare system! Happy days!