Pandemic has exacerbated workload and workforce pressures facing GPs, says RCGP

Responding to a report by Healthwatch into GP access during the pandemic, covered in The Times today, Dr Gary Howsam, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following.

“GPs and our teams have been doing a huge amount of work, on top of continuing to deliver the routine care and services our patients rely on us for, throughout the pandemic. We’ve delivered the largest flu vaccination programme in UK history. We've supported COVID-19 hot hubs in the community and NHS 111 services. And we've been central to the COVID vaccination programme, with around 75% of vaccines administered in primary care.

“Up to mid-March this year consultation rates in general practice were consistently higher than they were at the same time last year until lockdown started – albeit many delivered in a different way. And that’s not including the work that has gone into successfully delivering the CVP, protecting patients from COVID-19. GPs are also reporting increased complexity of the work, with patients presenting with around three problems during consultations, on average.

“We’re at the forefront of tackling the virus in the community and helping communities recover from the pandemic. We're caring for patients whose physical or mental health has been directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic, including those with long COVID. GPs also understand the pressures colleagues are facing elsewhere in the health service and would only recommend patients attend A&E if they think it’s the most appropriate place for them to go to get the care they need. We support the call to expand other services as well as ED capacity, and this includes primary and community care so that the increasing pressures can be dealt with effectively right across the system. It is also essential that government improves information for patients about where best to seek that’s appropriate for them.

“Before the pandemic, general practice was struggling against a backdrop of intense workforce and workload pressures. The pandemic has only exacerbated these pressures. We urgently need more GPs and other members of the practice team to manage increasing workload in general practice, so that we can continue to deliver the high quality care and access to services that our patients need.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
Out of hours: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 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.