Millions more people receive GP appointments compared to before the pandemic

Four million more GP appointments a month are being delivered for patients compared to the same month before the pandemic, as part of the NHS primary care access recovery plan.

New NHS data published today shows more than 31.4 million appointments (excluding vaccinations) were delivered by GP practices in November 2023, making it the busiest November on record for GP teams.

More than two fifths (42.6%) of appointments were booked and attended on the same day, up 3.3% on the previous month and almost seven in ten appointments were attended within seven days of booking, up 4.5% on the previous month. Other appointments such as vaccinations and routine follow up appointments are booked further in advance.

Every GP practice must offer face to face appointments as well as telephone and online consultations, with some patients choosing remote appointments where it is clinically appropriate. Today’s data showing almost seven in ten GP appointments were delivered face-to-face in November.

The NHS set out a range of measures in May last year to boost access to general practice for patients including more ways to access care for common conditions from high street pharmacies. The action is expected to free up to 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter and, with 80% of people in England living within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, the move will give the public more choice in where and how they access care.

As part of the ambitious blueprint, investment in better phone technology for GP teams has meant that eight in ten GP practices have already upgraded their telephone systems to make it easier for patients to contact them with the remaining practices signed up to make the move by March.

Dr Amanda Doyle, NHS England National Director for Primary Care and Community Services, said: “GP teams are carrying out record numbers of appointments for patients with the latest statistics published today showing four million more appointments were delivered in November 2023 compared to the same period before the pandemic – making it the busiest November on record.

“The NHS published a plan last year to improve access to GP services, which includes upgrading telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their general practice while more than 34,000 additional staff have joined GP teams since 2019 to deliver even more appointments.

“This is incredible progress from hardworking teams across the country and we are determined to make it easier to access services around people’s busy lives, so if you are concerned about your health please come forward for care.”

There are record numbers of people working in primary care – the NHS has recruited 34,000 additional staff into healthcare roles in general practices across the country since 2019 – well ahead of the target of 26,000 by March 2024.

The NHS has trained almost 2,500 staff to better assess patients’ needs when they first contact their practice so they can be seen by the right health professional in their GP practice, with thousands more staff due to be trained in the coming months.

During industrial action people are encouraged to continue to come forward for the care they need – using 111 online in the first instance but continuing to use 999 and A&E in life-threatening emergencies.  People can continue to use their GP services and local pharmacies in the usual way.