GP appointments data reveal year-on-year rise in workload

GP practices across England delivered nearly 500,000 more appointments in November 2018 compared with the previous November, official data reveal.

GP consultation (Photo: iStock.com/sturti)
GP consultation (Photo: iStock.com/sturti)

The total number of appointments delivered in November 2018 rose to 28.5m from 28m the previous November, figures from NHS Digital reveal - an increase of 1.7%.

The latest data come just a month after NHS Digital published comprehensive data on GP appointments for the first time, showing that practices deliver more than 1m appointments per day.

Over the 13-month period for which data is now available, November 2018 had the second-highest number of appointments recorded in a single month, behind only October 2018 - which saw 29.7m appointments delivered by GP practices across England.

GP appointments

The latest data show that the proportion of appointments delivered within a week of booking dropped from 68.5% in November 2017 to 65.9% in November 2018.

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard told GPonline that the figures reflected rising pressure on general practice.

'What is interesting is the numbers of consultation are rising steadily, but numbers of GPs are dropping - so there is going to be increasing pressure per GP in terms of the appointments demanded of them. Those extra 500,000 appointments will not materialise out of thin air, they have to be done by someone.'

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the government remains committed to delivering an extra 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs compared with the September 2015 position - but has dropped the timescale for delivering this, saying it will be achieved 'as soon as possible'.

Workforce

Dr Swinyard said that with rising pressure on a GP workforce that was becoming smaller, practices would need to do more to manage demand - potentially through better clinical triage of calls.

Some practices that have adopted clinical triage of all calls have found that in excess of half of all calls can be managed without needing to come for a face-to-face appointment.

However, Dr Swinyard warned that telephone triage was not a panacea - and that some doctors found it did not substantially reduce workload.

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