More than 211m GP appointments a year delivered within a week or less

Nearly seven in 10 GP appointments over the past year were delivered within a week or less, according to government figures.

GP appointment (Photo: sturti/Getty Images)
GP appointment (Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

Of the 307.2m appointments delivered by GP practices across England between June 2018 and May 2019, 211.4m (68.8%) were delivered within a week, the figures suggest.

GP leaders said the figures showed how hard the profession was working to meet high demand in a 'challenging environment', with a declining workforce managing an ageing population with increasingly complex needs.

Health minister Seema Kennedy provided 12-month average figures for time between booking a GP appointment and the appointment taking place in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme Paul Farrelly.

Same-day appointments

The response shows that over the year from June 2018 to May 2019, 42.1% of GP appointments were delivered on the same day, with a further 6.8% delivered the day after booking. A further 19.9% were delivered within two to seven days.

Despite this, the figures show that 17.4% of appointments involved a wait of more than two weeks from the time when they were booked - although the data do not differentiate between a 'genuine' wait and appointments that are simply booked well in advance.

BMA GP committee executive committee member Dr Farah Jameel said: 'These figures highlight how hard GPs are working across the country to meet demand despite a challenging environment, delivering a high proportion of appointments on the day of booking and the majority within a week.

'While it’s impossible to know for sure, those waiting longer may have booked ahead or been part of routine bookable availability for chronic disease management, and this is acceptable, appropriate and often necessary.'

GP access

Dr Jameel added that extended access appointments in evenings and weekends, as well as GP access via urgent or out-of-hours care were not always reflected in the national appointments figures.

She added that GPs were 'doing an incredible job, providing millions more appointments each year with hundreds fewer doctors, managing the challenges that come with an ageing, growing population with complex health needs'.

The GPC executive team member said: 'However, GPs do remain concerned that too many patients have to wait longer than they’d prefer, and we need the promised expansion of the workforce to be realised to start to address that.

'With the additional 20,000 practice-based staff agreed in this year’s GP contract, we hope that we will see both the workload burden on doctors reduce, while providing easier and more timely access for patients to reach the appropriate healthcare professional.'

GPonline reported earlier this year that general practice lost 441 fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs in the year to March 2019.

Ms Kennedy said in her written response to Mr Farrelly that the collection of GP appointments data was 'an important key step in understanding pressures on primary care'. She added: 'NHS England, NHS Digital and the government are working closely with GPs to understand how the data on GP appointments can be refined to improve the overall picture of primary care activity.'

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