GP appointments surge by 4m as NHS loses hundreds of GPs

General practice delivered 4m more appointments in March compared with the previous month, with a workforce that has slumped by more than 350 GPs over the past year, official data show.

GP surgery sign

The full-time equivalent (FTE), fully qualified GP workforce fell to 27,769 in March 2022 - down 369 compared with the same month in 2021, official data from NHS Digital show.

Data on appointments - excluding COVID-19 vaccination work - show that this depleted workforce is managing a sharp rise in demand, with practices delivering a total of 29,670,000 appointments in March this year, 9% above the total for the same month in 2021. Appointments for March this year were up more than 4m compared with February.

The figures mean that general practice delivered 10% more appointments per FTE fully-qualified GP this March compared with March 2021. This huge surge in demand came at a time when many GP practices were reporting workforces significantly depleted by COVID-19 absences.

GP workforce

BMA England GP committee deputy chair Dr Kieran Sharrock said: 'Last month appointments in England were up by 4 million - while GP numbers continued to spiral downwards. This is completely untenable for practices, for GPs and for patients.

'Compared with this time a year ago, England has the equivalent of 369 fewer full-time, fully qualified GPs – having lost 30 in the most recent month alone. This means each day there is one less doctor for patients to see.

'On top of that, we have lost almost 1,600, fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs since 2015.

'This trend, of demand rocketing while we haemorrhage doctors, is pushing the remaining staff to breaking point as they take on more and more each day, to a point which is not safe for them and certainly not safe for patients.

NHS demand

'The whole healthcare system is under pressure like never before, with record waits for operations and procedures, meaning more patients waiting often in a huge deal of pain and seeking support from their practice.

'While today’s figures demonstrate practice staff going above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients, working at these unsafe levels is not sustainable and will only drive more GPs away from the profession – leaving more patients without their family doctor.

'We urgently need the Government and policymakers to listen to the alarm bells being rung by practices around the country, and work with the profession to come to solutions that ease the pressures, turn the tide on the exodus of GPs and enable them to provide safe care that patients deserve.'

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