GP workload consistently higher than 2019 over past month, data show

GP workload in the past four weeks has consistently outstripped levels seen over the same period in 2019, analysis of RCGP surveillance data shows.

GP workload concerns (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)
GP workload concerns (Photo: Martin Prescott/Getty Images)

GPs have carried out 2% more consultations and clinical administrative work combined in weeks 29-32 of 2020 - running from 13 July to 9 August - than in the same four-week period of 2019, analysis by GPonline of data from the RCGP research and surveillance centre reveals.

Clinical administrative work in particular has spiked compared with last year - with GPs spending 17% more time on this part of their workload as the profession copes with the fallout from delays to care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consultations remain 5% down on last year - but demand is soaring across all types of GP contacts with patients. Face-to-face consultations in weeks 29-32 are up more than 50% compared with weeks 17-21 of this year, while home visits are up 26%, e-consultations 23% and telephone consultations 12%.

Figures on telephone consultations should be treated with caution because of the way so-called 'list consultations' can lead to recording of multiple phone calls as a single event - suggesting that the true rise in GP workload over the past month compared with last year may be far greater.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said earlier this month: 'Data from during the pandemic that suggests GPs have been spending longer with patients during appointments could indicate clinical GP workload may actually be greater than it was pre-COVID – and almost half of GPs who responded to a recent college survey indicated the same.'

He said the data from the research and surveillance centre showed 'a rise in the number of face-to-face appointments being carried out week on week, with face-to-face consultations up by approximately 40% during June and July.'

GP leaders warned earlier this month that NHS leaders should not underestimate GP workload, warning that practices were already facing unprecedented workload levels as NHS England called on the profession to 'restore activity to usual levels'. GPs have been warning for weeks that workload is soaring - and have warned that with pressure like this in summer, winter could be hugely challenging.

Warnings over workload come as the profession prepares to deliver the largest-ever flu campaign in NHS history, with more than half the UK population set to be offered vaccination.

Fears have also been raised about the potential impact of a second wave of coronavirus infection, particularly as schools begin to resume, more staff across the country return to workplaces and as colder weather could boost transmission.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said earlier this month that it was 'critical that practices are given proper support and resources from NHS England and the DHSC'.

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