GP appointment data shows practices are busier than they’ve ever been, says BMA

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 29 April 2021

Responding to today’s NHS Appointments in General Practice data1, which shows that practices in England delivered 4.8 million more appointments in March than they did in February, BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey, said:

“Today’s figures underline the immense efforts that practices are going to providing care to their communities and the intense workload pressures that staff are under as we continue to respond to the pandemic alongside patients’ wider health needs.

“Practices in England delivered almost 5 million more appointments in March than they did the month before, and nearly 3 million more than they did in the same month two years ago, long before the onset of the pandemic.

“GPs and their teams are consistently telling us they’re busier now than they have ever been, and this data – which does not include a large proportion of the vaccine programme undertaken by practices, nor a vast amount of other daily tasks – backs this up.

“Every day, more than a million patients in England had an appointment with their practices, whether this was the significant proportion seen face-to-face, on the phone, or, for a smaller number, via video call. This phenomenal amount and associated workload is before we consider the hundreds of thousands of other people being vaccinated via GP-led sites each day.

“And with too few GPs and practice nurses – and a promise in 2015 of 5,000 extra family doctors within five years actually delivering a loss of almost 1,5002 – individual doctors and other practice clinicians are taking on more and more as demand rises and the workforce diminishes.

“So for GPs working 11 or 12-hour days, often leading heroic efforts to protect as many people as possible in their communities against a disease that has had such a devastating impact on all of us, it is heart-breaking and completely demoralising to hear accusations that general practice is not open and that patients are not being seen.

“This narrative, categorically proven wrong by today’s data, is extremely damaging at a time when morale is already reaching rock bottom and many GPs, practice managers and others in the practice workforce are reaching breaking point.

“It may feel slightly different, with changes put in place for the protection of staff and patients alike, but general practice is open, and staff need support, patience and understanding as they work harder than ever before.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Full dataset available here.
  2. In September 2015, there were 29,403 fully-qualified full-time equivalent GPs in England. In September 2020, there were 27,981 – a difference of 1,422