GP appointment data shows teams continue to go above and beyond to meet patient demand, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 24 February 2022

Responding to the latest GP appointment data for England, Dr Kieran Sharrock, BMA England GP committee deputy chair, said:

“Month on month, appointment figures continue to highlight the ever-increasing demand on GPs and their teams, as they continually go above and beyond for their communities, delivering more standard appointments last month than in December (from 25.2 million to 25.7 million).1

“GPs are working harder than ever with a finite number of resources. As well as delivering routine appointments, we are still caring for those with Covid, supporting the vulnerable, and working through the enormous backlog of care that’s built up during the pandemic. What’s more, the majority of our appointments remain face-to-face (60%) – something GPs often prefer. Alongside this, there has been an expected increase in the number of telephone consultations due to record-high levels of Covid circulating in January. Limitations on the data available mean we don’t know enough about activity and workload in general practice. Data about appointments, prescriptions, pathology requests and referrals provide some insight but have constraints. 

“Demand has not diminished – quite the opposite – and GPs and their teams are at serious risk of burnout, with many already-exhausted colleagues feeling as though they have no choice but to leave a profession they love because of the current pressures. We know this is a huge problem for our members, with almost three-quarters (74%) of GPs telling a recent BMA survey that the state of their health and mental wellbeing had a high influence on their thoughts about leaving the health service.

“The number of staff available limits what activity can be delivered in general practice. This way of working is unsafe, everyday GPs and their teams are shoring up more appointments than they can safely accommodate, this has an impact in patient safety terms. The waiting list in general practice will only keep growing, a radical approach is necessary to address staff shortages, unbalanced investment and misaligned incentives.

“As well as desperately-needed extra resources and funding for general practice, it’s vital that Government provides GPs and all other healthcare professionals with thorough guidance on how to manage Covid in their communities going forward, so that patients can continue to receive the care they need and deserve.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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. This does not include vaccination appointments, which are not always delivered by GPs and are gradually declining as more people become fully-vaccinated.
  2. Doctors were asked: ‘How if at all might any of the following influence your thoughts about leaving the health service?’ On health and wellbeing: 4% of GP respondents said ‘low’; 21% said ‘medium’; 74% said ‘high’, and 2% said ‘no influence’.