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by Lea Legraien
31 January 2020
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General practice delivered around 1.22 million appointments per day in England in 2019 – an extra 20,000 appointments compared with the previous year, according to new data.
This is in spite of a decrease in the number of fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs, which dropped by 339 over the year.
The latest statistics from NHS Digital reveal an estimated 1.22 million GP appointments per weekday in 2019 compared with 1.20 million per weekday in 2018.
GP leaders said the volume of appointments reflects the huge pressures facing practices across the country.
It follows the highest number of GP appointments recorded in a single month, after official data from October revealed an estimated 30.8 million consultations had taken place.
In the latest figures, the number of GP appointments in a month has declined slightly, but is still at a high level, with an estimated 27.4 million in November and 24.2 million in December.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These figures show the intense strain practices up and down the country are under, managing increased demand with a dwindling workforce.
‘So, while the largest proportion of appointments are delivered on the day of booking, GPs are spreading themselves more thinly, not only risking their own health and wellbeing, but also meaning there are often long waits for patients to see their doctor.’
He added: ‘Figures like today’s have become far too familiar reading, but the Government cannot afford to be complacent on GP workload. They must get a grip on the workforce crisis, follow through on their pledge to boost numbers and alleviate the severe pressure GPs and their teams are under.’
Last year, health secretary Matt Hancock pledged to increase the number of GPs by 6,000 – including trainees – by 2023/24 if his party won the election.
It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to reduce GP waiting times so that some patients do not have to wait for three weeks to see their GP.
The upcoming final People Plan will outline NHS England’s workforce strategy for primary care, but currently has no set date for publication.