The daily experience of a GP has changed dramatically and this is impacting patient care, says College Chair

Responding to the latest data on appointments in general practice, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said: “These latest appointment figures demonstrate the continued and rising pressures facing general practice. Hardworking GPs and their dedicated teams are delivering tens of millions of appointments per month, with over two thirds face-to-face, despite a clear deficit in workforce and a growing demand for treatment in both volume and complexity.

“The summer has historically been a quieter period and a chance for the NHS to prepare for the winter months when demand spikes. However, this July has broken the historical trend and exemplifies the constant, often unmanageable, demand that primary care is witness to all year round. GPs delivered over 1.8 million more appointments than this time last year and over 2 million more since July 2021, all with 952 fewer fully qualified, full-time GPs than at the end of 2019. Each fully qualified, full-time equivalent GP in England is now responsible, on average, for over 2,300 patients – an increase of over 160 patients from the end of 2019.

“GPs and their teams want to do the very best they can for all their patients, but we can only do so much. Increasing workload, without enough GPs to manage this, has inevitable consequences. Many GPs are experiencing burnout and low morale from the unsustainable demands they experience year-round. The nature of each appointment is also changing with an increase in the number of patients with complex, chronic and multiple conditions – requiring longer consultations and treatment investigations. The rise in the number of appointments alone doesn’t give a sense of the full picture that the daily experience of a GP has changed dramatically in recent years, and this obviously impacts on the quality and safety of care we can give to our patients.

“We cannot carry on like this. The government’s recent workforce plan is an opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues, but we now need to see action as an absolute priority, including significant investment for improved retention initiatives to curb the rate at which GPs are leaving the profession, at the same time as encouraging the next generation of GPs into the workforce.”

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Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.