GP practices and primary care networks (PCNs) delivered 4.2 million Covid vaccines in June, the latest appointment data shows.
Published by NHS Digital (29 July), the latest dataset shows that of the 31.1 million appointments estimated to have taken place last month in general practice, 4.2 million were for Covid vaccinations: the lowest count of 2021.
The data also showed that this number is down by nearly half (47%) compared to the previous month which saw just over 8 million vaccines delivered by practices and PCNs.
However – when Covid vaccines are factored out – practices in England booked 3.5 million more appointments overall in June than they did the month before, at 26.7 million.
Of these, 15 million took place face-to-face, compared to 10.5 million held over the phone, contrary to accusations that general practice has been closed to patients throughout the pandemic.
An additional 109,412 consultations were made via video or online.
This comes as the online consultation system provider eConsult announced that practices will soon be able to restrict patient requests outside of their core opening hours.
The online consultation company is working on introducing the option to turn off eConsult on an ad hoc basis, as well as offering set hours for the start and end time in which patients can send in online forms.
GPs from eConsult said the new set of ‘demand management features’ was borne out recognition of how ‘overwhelmed’ the GP workforce is currently.
Responding to the new appointment data, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said practices are under ‘immense pressure’ as they continue to see patients while playing a leading role in the vaccinations campaign.
‘In the context of this growing demand, a large backlog of patients across the NHS who did not receive the care they needed throughout the pandemic, and looking forward to what looks to be an incredibly difficult winter, general practice is in clear need of support,’ he said.
He also said that Government pledges to increase the GP workforce must be realised, and that unnecessary bureaucracy should be ‘eradicated for good’ to allow for more time to focus on patient care.
Before Covid-19, practices were ‘understaffed and under-resourced’, he added, suggesting the pandemic pushed many practice staff members ‘to breaking point’.
‘Yet NHSEI has repeatedly, though its actions, failed to grasp the need to provide urgent support to general practice,’ he said.
The appointment of a new Health Secretary and NHS chief, Amanda Pritchard, is the ‘perfect opportunity’ to demonstrate a commitment to general practice during the next phase of recovery from the pandemic, he suggested.