Latest appointments data highlights immense backlog facing general practice, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 27 January 2022

Responding to the latest GP appointment data, Dr Farah Jameel, GPC England chair at the BMA, said: 
 
“On the 13th December, the Prime Minister put out a call to arms, making the booster campaign the national priority in the fight against Omicron. General practice responded to the call and delivered 3.9 million vaccination appointments that month. We now know that this booster wall of defence kept our sickest and most vulnerable safe and out of harm’s way. Yet again, GPs and their teams vaccinated this country out of crisis. 
 
“As a result, GP appointment figures for December were a staggering 20% higher than two years ago. And as well as vaccination rollout, we continued to care for patients with Covid, and deliver the day-to-day care our communities needed. In fact, 2021 saw GP practices in England book more appointments than ever before.
 
“GPs and their teams are now also facing an extraordinary backlog of care - not only from patients with currently undiagnosed conditions, but also those currently waiting for hospital treatment who need GP support while they wait. 
 
“These demands on general practice are simply not sustainable, especially when we consider that there are the equivalent of 1,756 fewer fully qualified full-time GPs in the country compared to 2015. In fact, the average number of patients a single GP looks after today is more than 2,000.
  
“The fewer GPs we have, the more work they are expected to take on between them. There are no more hours in the day to cram in any more work and no more staff to stretch any thinner. Staff wellbeing is fundamentally important in our efforts to recover, remobilise and support our health service, so that it can deliver high-quality care that is timely, effective and safe for our patients. 
 
“As well as creating and delivering solutions to bolster the workforce, Government must urgently scrap unnecessary administrative tasks and other unachievable targets if we’re to stand a fighting chance of getting on top of current demand. Without urgent action from Government, the care GPs provide for their patients will inevitably deteriorate as they prioritise only the sickest, ultimately leading to a two-tier system.
 
“We must be vigorous and inventive in taking steps to protect and enhance the wellbeing of our staff, and in turn, our patients. The current pace, pressure and intensity is no longer safe, and we welcome patient organisations and regulatory providers taking steps to support us in solving that.”

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.