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GPs dealing with over five million more appointments a month compared to pre-pandemic

GPs are dealing with over five million more appointments a month compared to December 2019, but with roughly 1,000 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs.

GPs are dealing with over five million more appointments a month compared to December 2019, but with roughly 1,000 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs.

The latest GP appointments and GP workforce statistics also reveals that GPs in England are individually dealing with an average number of 2,302 patients – an increase equivalent to an extra 159 patients per GP since December 2019.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs says these latest figures show “the true extent of both the workforce and workload crises GPs are having to cope with.”

Retention efforts key to ensuring effective and efficient patient care

The latest appointment data has also revealed that over 29 million appointments were delivered in June, nearly two million more than in May, with 70% delivered face to face and over 40% delivered on the same day.

While the number of FTE GPs has grown by 551 (1.6%) since last year, there are still significantly less GPs in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. Furthermore, when GPs in training grade and locums are excluded from the data, there are actually 338 (1.3%) fewer GPs compared to the same period last year.

Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation says this latest data “proves a phenomenal achievement and effort by GPs and their teams.”

“While general practice continues to work above and beyond, they are still continuing to do this amidst the repetitive cycle of drops in fully qualified GPs and number of practices. We know that the recently published long term workforce plan will address retention and recruitment of staff, however this plan will not be implemented over night and will take a long time.

“This highlights the importance of sustained investment in primary care, new ways of working and collaborating at scale, which is why we need commitment to Primary Care Networks beyond 23/24. This in turn will help retain the workforce, supporting staff to continue to care for their patients efficiently and effectively,” she said.

General practice “being pushed closer towards the precipice”

Professor Hawthorne says the government must act immediately to ensure this trend does not continue, as it will only push more GPs out of the profession.

“GPs have seen the volume of their workloads snowball and have also seen the nature of appointments become more complex, with a growing number of patients needing care for multiple or chronic conditions. Many GPs are experiencing burnout, low morale and a sense of moral distress at not being able to offer patients access to much-needed care.

“We know that when GPs do leave the profession earlier than planned, it is often due to the pressures of the role which results in a vicious cycle effect, whereby the workloads of those who remain in practice intensify. College surveys have shown that this cycle is likely to get worse, with many of our fully-qualified GPs considering leaving general practice in the next five years,” she said.

While Prof Hawthorne says while she is hopeful this situation can be turned around, it is evident that general practice is “being pushed closer towards the precipice”.

“The government’s recent workforce plan is an opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues, but we need to see it enacted as an absolute priority, including significant investment for improved retention initiatives to curb the rate at which GPs are leaving the profession and encouraging the next generation of GPs into the workforce.

“The trends we’ve seen over the past year can’t be allowed to continue if we want general practice to survive and our patients to receive the care they need and deserve – we need immediate action” she said.

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