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Fewer GPs seeing more patients than before the pandemic, official figures show

by Beth Gault
4 April 2022

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Practices provided 12.85 million appointments to patients in England in February 2022, according to official NHS figures, which equates to around 463 appointments per GP.

This figure is up from 12.46 million appointments in February 2020, which was around 445 per GP at the time.

In total, there were 25.7 million appointments in February 2022, with over 50% of them GP appointments and 46.1% with other practice staff. As of the same month, there were 27,799 full-time-equivalent fully qualified GPs, which is 1,565 fewer than in 2015.

The BMA has said these figures show a ‘worrying trend’ facing general practice when the average number of patients each GP is responsible for has increased by 16% – or 300 – since 2015.

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of council at the BMA said: ‘This rise in GP appointment figures – and that the vast majority are being delivered face-to-face – is testament to the dedication of our healthcare workers. But as members have repeatedly told the BMA, going above and beyond to fill staffing gaps and trying to meet patient demand, is not a sustainable way of working.’

Of the appointments, 61.3% were face-to-face and 34.8% were over the telephone. Around 45% were same day appointments, 9% were within one day of booking and just over 21% were made for within two to seven days of booking.

Dr Wrigley added that there is an increased risk of patient harm and poorer care through ‘decision fatigue’, and a risk of harm to GPs through burnout, if this continues.

‘Doctors are exhausted and many feel as though they have no choice but to leave the profession they love for the sake of their own health and wellbeing, thus creating a vicious cycle of even fewer GPs and even more burn out,’ said Dr Wrigley.

MPs vote against workforce planning

It comes after MPs last week (30 March) voted against an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which would have mandated greater transparency on workforce planning.

The amendment would have required the Government to publish independent reports on workforce numbers every two years, and was approved by the House of Lords last month.

However, 243 Conservative MPs voted against the idea in the House of Commons, despite all other parties voting in favour.

In response to the vote, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘This is a crucial missed opportunity to address historic poor workforce planning in the NHS that has led to the unrelenting pressure that GPs, our teams and colleagues across the health service are working under.

‘Over the last month more than 1,900 GPs wrote to their MP to outline why this amendment was so important for patient care and the sustainability of the NHS and to encourage them to support it. Today’s result in parliament has let down healthcare professionals working in general practice and the wider NHS.’

The BMA added that it was ‘disappointing to see the scale of Government inaction’ on workforce.

It follows a survey which found that more people are dissatisfied with the NHS than are satisfied, which should serve as a wake-up call to the Government, according to GP leaders.