GP practices in England delivered over 30 million appointments in March 2022, up from 25.7 million in February, according to NHS Digital figures published last week (28 April).
Over 44% of appointments during March took place on the same day they were booked, with 50.1% carried out by a GP.
GP leaders have said the statistics show GP practices are continuing to work ‘exceptionally hard’ under immense pressure.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘It is clear from today’s figures that GPs and our teams are continuing to work exceptionally hard, delivering more than 30m patient consultations in March – more than in the same month before the pandemic – with 44% on the same day they were booked.
‘The data shows that GP teams are trying their best in the face of intense workload and workforce pressures to ensure their patients receive timely and appropriate care.’
BMA England GP committee deputy chair, Dr Kieran Sharrock, added that this figure came amid declining GP numbers, which made the situation ‘completely untenable for practices, for GPs and for patients’.
He said: ‘Compared with this time a year ago, England has the equivalent of 369 fewer full-time, fully qualified GPs – having lost 30 in the most recent month alone. This means each day there is one less doctor for patients to see.
‘On top of that, we have lost almost 1,600, fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs since 2015.’
He added: ‘While today’s figures demonstrate practice staff going above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients, working at these unsafe levels is not sustainable and will only drive more GPs away from the profession – leaving more patients without their family doctor.
‘We urgently need the Government and policymakers to listen to the alarm bells being rung by practices around the country, and work with the profession to come to solutions that ease the pressures, turn the tide on the exodus of GPs and enable them to provide safe care that patients deserve.’
A recent survey found that over a third of GPs in England were considering quitting within five years.
The news comes after figures showed that the average waiting time for a non-urgent, face-to-face appointment is 10 days, quicker than before the Covid pandemic.
The latest British Social Attitudes Survey found that patient satisfaction with GPs fell to their lowest-ever level, with difficulties getting an appointment featuring as a key issue.
However, the survey did not target people who had tried to get a GP appointment. NHS England-backed research also found just one in 10 patients preferred face-to-face GP appointments during the Covid pandemic, with most requesting telephone consultations.