GP practices are dealing with ‘rapidly rising demand’, the BMA has warned as new data show a significant increase in the number of appointments in general practice.
NHS Digital’s latest weekly appointment statistics show 5.8m appointments took place in general practice in England in the week ending 13 September.
This was the highest figure since lockdown began, when there were just over 4.3m appointments in the week ending 30 March.
The latest weekly update also shows face-to-face appointments now account for a greater proportion (55%) than telephone appointments (40%), which had become far more popular earlier on in the pandemic.
There were over a third more face-to-face appointments in the past week – a total of 3.1m – compared with the week ending 6 September, when there were almost 2.3m.
The BMA warned demand will continue to rise into the winter.
It also said a second wave of infections was driving the increase in demand already being felt by practices.
BMA GP Committee chair for England Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As these figures clearly show, GP practices are coming under significant pressure with rapidly rising demand, concerns related to Covid-19 adding to the expected rise in activity as we move into autumn, and with schools returning.’
He added: ‘Of course, this year is like no other as we do all that we can to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
‘Huge numbers of patients have been contacting practices worried that they cannot get tested for possible Covid-19. In addition, practices have also faced the need to respond to the significant impact of the huge backlog of care for those whose procedures have been postponed.’
Dr Vautrey went on to urge healthcare and political leaders to support general practice.
He said: ‘NHS England and the Government must recognise that the pressure is continuing to mount on practices across the country. As such, they must be supported in these exceptionally challenging circumstances to ensure that we can keep up with the growing needs of our patients.’