Figures from the DH in England revealed that approximately 2,000 (25%) or practices provided urgent-only appointments on Thursday as part of BMA industrial action over changes to the NHS pensions scheme.
Equivalent government figures for Scotland revealed that around 60% of practices had been affected by industrial action – with either all or some GPs seeing emergency patients only.
The Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board and the Department of Health and Social Services in Wales were unable to provide figures for the number of practice that took part.
Commenting on the industrial action in England, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘In the run up to these strikes our objective has been to minimise disruption for patients.
'We asked doctors to recognise that their quarrel was not with patients but with the government. I am pleased that a significant majority of doctors have done just that and maintained services for their patients.
DH figures also revealed that in England around 2,700 elective operations were cancelled and rescheduled. This represented approximately 9% of normal daily number of elective operations.
Around 18,750 outpatient appointments were cancelled and rescheduled. This represented approximately 9.4% of normal daily outpatient activity.
Commenting on the day of industrial action, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘Because doctors have been in their places of work as usual, it was always going to be difficult to put a figure on the number taking part - the government's figures need to be treated with extreme caution.
‘Our feedback from the doctors co-ordinating the action on the ground indicates that in England up to a quarter of non-urgent cases have been postponed, and around a third of GP practices have been taking some form of action.
‘Our intention has not been to maximise the impact on patients, but to communicate the scale of doctors’ anger and to encourage the government back to the table. Doctors have sent a strong message that a fairer approach must be found.’