GP clinical administration work surges as practices tackle COVID-19 backlog

Clinical administration work for GPs has surged to the highest point in nearly a year as practices tackle a huge backlog built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)

GPs recorded 315.2 consultations for clinical administrative work per 10,000 patients in the week beginning 6 July, according to data from the RCGP.

This is higher than at any point since September 2019 - and is roughly in line with the level of clinical administrative work as practices prepared QOF data for the end of the financial year last March.

Clinical administrative workload has almost doubled since the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, the figures show - with the figures for the week beginning 6 July up 74% compared with the week beginning 6 April.

GP consultations

The figures come after GPonline revealed earlier this week that face-to-face consultations in general practice have risen sharply since the start of lockdown - with GPs now seeing 71% more patients in person than they were at the start of April.

GP leaders say the surge in clinical administrative work and a drift towards more patients being seen face-to-face reflects patients who have avoided seeking care during the peak of the pandemic now contacting practices for support.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: 'For patients who didn’t seek medical care during lockdown, it might be that their condition has worsened, and that they would now benefit from a referral or prescription.

'This is reflected in an increase in GP clinical administration that we are seeing - GPs are also re-referring patients who were not able to get secondary care appointments on initial referral due to measures taken to slow the spread of COVID.'

NHS backlog

GPonline reported in April that millions of patients were avoiding seeking care during the early stages of the pandemic - and there have been repeated warnings from doctors' leaders and charities over the huge backlog of care built up as hospitals stopped carrying out routine work during the outbreak.

GPs have reported a rise in urgent cancer referrals rejected unfairly during the pandemic, and a leading cancer charity has warned that 'enormous disruption' to services has left around 2.4m patients waiting longer for treatment.

Professor Marshall said: 'Patients who were previously avoiding GP services for various reasons, including fear of COVID-19, are now seeking medical assistance.

'Minimising the spread of the virus and keeping patients and general practice staff safe remains a top priority and as such if we do experience a second wave patients can expect GP services will adapt accordingly and in line with government advice.'

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