Practices delivered one million more GP appointments per week in January than before the pandemic, NHS England has revealed.
The latest NHS England board papers showed a year-on-year increase in demand of 15% by late January when Covid vaccinations are included in calculations.
It comes as Healthwatch England has called for a formal review into GP access, which it said has been worsened by the pandemic.
The board papers, published today, said practices have reached a ‘run rate’ of seven million appointments per week.
They said: ‘Overall GP appointments have increased by around 15% by late January 2021 compared to the equivalent week in 2020, once Covid vaccinations are included, bringing general practice up to a 7m per week run rate, which is 1m per week above pre-pandemic levels.’
Another board paper added that online consultation requests ‘more than doubled’ from around 250,000 per week to over 550,000 per week between March 2020 and January 2021.
GP access caused controversy in the autumn amid suggestions that practices were not ‘open’ and ‘GP-bashing’ in the media.
Meanwhile, an NHS England update on Covid vaccine deployment reiterated that it is planning for a revaccination campaign that is ‘likely’ to run ‘in the autumn and winter’.
‘We are planning on the basis that we will need to run Covid-19 and seasonal flu vaccination campaigns in parallel’, it added.
And NHS England is still ‘exploring possibilities’ for the flu and Covid vaccines to be co-administered, it said.
It remains unclear whether the whole population will need to be revaccinated, or whether only the most vulnerable will receive booster shots.
Meanwhile, reports have suggested that children could be vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as August.
A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.