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GP appointments rise to highest number in 2020

pre-pandemic appointments

GPs last month treated 28 million patients – the highest number since the start of 2020, according to NHS Digital data.

NHS Digital’s latest experimental GP appointment statistics, published monthly, show that an estimated 28.2 million GP appointments took place in October.

This compares with 31 million in October 2019 and is the highest so far this year – with numbers hitting 28 million before the pandemic in January and 25 million in both February and March.

The data also showed that 60% (16.8 million) of appointments last month were face to face while over a third (35%) took place over the phone.

And four in ten (41%) of appointments this October took place the same day they were booked – down from 45% in September, according to NHS Digital.

Meanwhile, NHS England’s latest board papers said that work ‘is continuing to ensure as many patients as possible are seen across primary care’.

The papers, published last week, added: ‘This includes activity to help get the balance right between phone/online and face to face appointments.’

Practices received a toolkit to support ‘appropriate public messaging that general practice is also “open for business” (including face to face appointments where needed)’ in September, NHS England said.

And a national campaign encouraging the public to seek help if needed began last month, it added.

Last month, NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani told GPs and their teams they are ‘valued and appreciated’, as new figures revealed a sharp increase in the number of GP consultations.

NHS England landed itself in hot water in September with a ‘reminder’ to practices to offer face-to-face consultations despite the ongoing pandemic and NHS England’s own ‘total triage’ advice.

And health secretary Matt Hancock last week said that the proportion of remote consultations should remain at around 45% after the Covid-19 pandemic.