GP consultations up 400,000 in first three weeks of 2021 compared with last year

GPs have delivered around 400,000 more patient consultations in the first three full weeks of 2021 than in the same period last year - in the midst of rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, RCGP data reveal.

GP phone consultation (Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

Data on face-to-face, telephone and e-consultations by GPs from the RCGP research surveillance centre show that GPs delivered 4.3% more consultations in the first three weeks of 2021 compared with the first full three weeks last year.

GPonline analysis of the data suggests that GPs delivered around 9.8m appointments of these three types between 4 January and 24 January - up 400,000 from the first three full weeks of last year.

Including clinical administrative work carried out by GPs - which has been soaring throughout the pandemic - the RCGP data show that GP clinical workload in the first three weeks of 2021 is 12% higher than the same period last year.

GP workload

Data showing the level of workload faced in general practice at the start of 2021 come after the RCGP highlighted extreme pressure from workload at the end of last year.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said earlier this month: 'GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard delivering the COVID-19 vaccination programme alongside the delivery of the expanded flu vaccine programme and the vital care services that our patients rely on us for.

'Figures from the college’s research surveillance centre show that in the nine weeks to the end of 2020 general practice delivered approximately 2.5m more appointments than in the same period in 2019 – GPs and our teams continue to remain busy and are providing care for our patients, albeit differently than usual in some cases.'

The latest data on the COVID-19 vaccination programme show that around 7.2m first-dose jabs have been administered UK-wide - almost halfway to the government's target of 15m jabs by 15 February - with GP-led vaccination sites behind around three quarters of vaccinations in England.

COVID-19 pressure

Pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic prompted advice from the BMA and RCGP earlier this month that most practices should halt all non-essential work.

The college and the BMA have said that most practices are now operating at the top two tiers of a six-point 'response level' scale drawn up to help practices manage pressures during the pandemic.

These levels indicate that many practices are facing 'very significant, potentially overwhelming, demand relating to COVID-19, acute deterioration in long-term conditions, new symptoms indicating potentially serious disease and the COVID-19 vaccination roll out'.

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