GP contacts with patients up 7.5% in two years

The total number of telephone and face-to-face contacts between patients and GPs rose 7.5% over the two years from 2014/15 to 2016/17, analysis by a leading think tank reveals.

Rates of GP telephone consultations have soared
Rates of GP telephone consultations have soared

Contacts between GPs and patients rose faster than registered population over the period, according to data from the King's Fund that provide further evidence of soaring pressure on general practice.

The figures come less than a month after GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul hit out at rising GP workload and warned that one in four GP appointments were avoidable in his LMC conference 2017 speech.

Data published by the King's Fund as part of its quarterly monitoring report on NHS performance found that telephone contacts between GPs and patients had risen 24% over the two-year period, and face-to-face consultations 2.8% - contributing to the overall 7.5% increase.

GP workforce

The think tank's data highlight that GP numbers have stagnated as consultation rates continue to rise, with a 'marginal drop' in GP numbers over 2015 and 2016 despite the government's pledge to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020/21.

Consultations with patients aged over 85 continue to rise sharply, with a 25% rise in contacts with patients in this age bracket in the third and fourth quarters of 2016/17 compared with the same period in 2014/15. Despite this, the majority of consultations continue to be with patients aged 18 to 64.

Numbers of patients registered with GPs rose 2.4% over the period, while average numbers of patients registered with each practice rose 6.2% according to the King's Fund data, based on a sample of 202 GP practices. The increase in list size reflects a reduction of almost 350 in the total number of GP practices in England over the two years.

The King's Fund also pointed to record levels of referrals from primary to secondary care, potentially also reflecting extreme pressure on general practice, and rising numbers of non-medical staff hired as practices struggle to recruit GPs and look to increase skill mix.

NHS funding

Commenting on wider NHS performance data published by the King’s Fund, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'The NHS is now in a position where it has to put off spending because the money has run out, leaving patients waiting in pain and uncertainty.

'Our health and social care systems can no longer cope without urgent action. In the run-up to the general election, we are calling on politicians of all parties not to duck this crisis any longer. This means, as a minimum, immediately bringing investment in line with other leading European countries and outlining credible, long-term plans that will safeguard the future of the fully funded and supported NHS that staff want and patients deserve.'

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