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Latest GP appointment figures show ‘immense’ strain practices are under

Latest GP appointment figures show ‘immense’ strain practices are under

GP practices in England carried out 31.5 million recorded patient appointments in April, the latest figures from NHS Digital show.

The estimated appointment numbers include 7.5 million Covid vaccines delivered by practices or PCNs.

GPs saw 12.4 million patients, the figures show, with other members of the practice team doing 10.5 million appointments.

And well over half – 54.8% – of patients were seen face to face, up from 53.7% in March.

The figures showed that 45.5% of appointments took place on the same day as they were booked.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the figures highlighted the ‘immense pressures’ that GPs and are under with the ever-increasing workload generated by the pandemic and patient backlog.

‘The data is a stark indication that this is not only an unsustainable way of working, but also that practices – often understaffed and woefully under-resourced – are starting to crack as a result.
He added: ‘It’s testament to general practice that in April, the majority of appointments were done the same day as booking.

‘The number of consultations taking place after a two-to-seven day wait is going up, which is a sign that practices are responding appropriately to the needs of their patients who want to wait for a specific timed appointment, often face-to-face.’

But its also a sign that other practices are struggling to meet same day requests and shows the ‘serious toll’ that increased patient demand is having on surgeries.

The previous month’s figures – March 2021 – showed 28.4 million estimated appointments.

A report from the NHS Confederation in May warned that general practice needs a ‘black alert’ system to flag unsafe workload and help formally document the ‘immense pressure’ the sector is under.

Dr Vautrey pointed to recent BMA research showing doctors are suffering ‘moral distress’ and even ‘moral injury’ because they cannot give their patients the care and support they want to.
‘The BMA has warned time and again that the problems in general practice pre-pandemic were going to have a knock-on effect during and after Covid-19, and this cannot continue to be ignored.

‘Before Covid-19, patient demand was increasing while the number of GPs was falling, so the much needed solutions aren’t new – we need more staff, more resources, better premises and more support from Government if we’re to avoid an even bigger, potentially irreversible crisis in general practice. ‘The difference this time is that there isn’t any time left, and that ignoring these problems actively threatens the collapse of primary care – and ultimately the foundations on which the rest of the NHS is built.’



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

John Graham Munro 17 June, 2021 5:08 pm

After resting during the Bank Holiday. my practice decided to shut shop again yesterday for——you guessed it—–training

Tim Atkinson 17 June, 2021 5:21 pm

So you’d be happy to be treated by untrained staff then?

michael miller 17 June, 2021 5:42 pm

Without training I am sure CQC will shut it …. permanently

Mr Marvellous 17 June, 2021 7:15 pm

Training is normally mandatory as the CCG arrange OOH cover and a formal half-day closure. It tends to be a mix of topics – sometimes less important, and sometimes things like L3 Safeguarding.

Unfortunately John doesn’t know anything about modern General Practice, so he might not be aware of this.

John Graham Munro 17 June, 2021 10:27 pm

Mr. Marvellous——-you say ”training is normally mandatory”——–I have recently worked in practices where this runs along side a surgery——and to Tim Atkinson—-how much more so called training do we need?

The Prime Minister 17 June, 2021 10:44 pm

When is PULSE going finally to rid us of undercover reporters for The Daily Jerk-frankly it is childish and boring !!

John Graham Munro 17 June, 2021 11:54 pm

When is PULSE going to suggest contributors stop hiding behind pseudonyms?

Vinci Ho 18 June, 2021 7:18 am

So these are the official figures from NHS Digital and they are for interpretations.
Clearly , the question of ‘what is safe , what is unsafe ?’must be answered . And the reality is GPs are stretched to the maximum limits with no more reserves. So what is the answer from the government and its authorities?

Dermot Ryan 18 June, 2021 9:26 am

A short term solution is to offer employment to recently retired doctors, most who left because of the unbearable pressures now currently being experienced coupled with the inability to practice anything approaching a decent standard of medicine. Many would be happy to do a couple of sessions a wekk as long as re entry was not overly burdensome. Something HMG might consider.
Where would they get the money?
Get rid of NHSE CQC and NICE woud be a good start coupled up with freeing up clinical time by stopping revalidation and appraisal. The time of the appraisers would also be freed up, so win-win!!

Mr Marvellous 18 June, 2021 9:29 am

“I have recently worked in practices where this runs along side a surgery”

So an educational session runs alongside a surgery? Do the clinicians listen to the lectures in between patients? Or do they swap in and out – so one GP gets to do Safeguarding Level 2 and then after an hour another gets to do Level 3. Doesn’t sound very efficient.

I guess that they’re lucky that they have someone so hard working like you, as you seem to imply that all current GPs are lazy…

On behalf of the whole profession, thanks John.

David Turner 18 June, 2021 10:10 am

An interesting debate.
Truths on both sides.
Yes we do have to do training or we would fail CQC/appraisal and yes a very significant proportion of it, if not the majority is pointless and and utter waste of time.
However, as I have said time and time again there are lots of private providers making big money from running training courses…..

John Graham Munro 19 June, 2021 7:21 am

David Turner——–Thanks——I was beginning to feel very alone

James Cuthbertson 23 June, 2021 12:26 pm

@ John Graham Munro- you seem to have terrible luck constantly requesting appointments on training days. Or are you just monitoring the training days that the practice take for a hobby?

If I may interject, the amount of training days undertaken in GP is dwarfed by those in secondary care (and I work in both) and very often mandatory.

The fun thing is, all the work that was put on hold by the training day is waiting for you the next day! No waiting lists or referral protocols to hide behind, just way over the recommended number of patients per GP with open access!!!

n.b. you probably will feel alone if you go on a GP forum and criticise GP’s for doing something that is entirely expected of them insinuating that they aren’t working hard.

John Graham Munro 24 June, 2021 12:47 pm

I expected all these excuses——-111 is conveniently there for Training Days and Bank Holidays