800,000 more GP appointments in March than before pandemic

MORE patients are getting the care they need from their GP practice team, with the NHS in the North West employing innovative new technologies to race past its target, delivering over 3.5 million appointments in March 2024, almost 800,000 more than the same period before the pandemic.

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 and more convenient for them.

The latest NHS data shows that over 2.3 million of these appointments were held face to face and just over a million were via telephone or online / video consultation.

And on average, thanks to the primary care recovery plan, nationally, the NHS is now offering more than 1.4 million GP appointments every working day.

NHS staff continue to exceed ambitions to provide 50 million more appointments by March 2024 with the figures showing that GPs and their teams have delivered an extra 56.3 million appointments (363.6 million excluding Covid vaccinations) or 63.4 million (370.7 million including Covid vaccinations) over the last year compared to 2018/19.

75% of GP practices in the North West have now upgraded their phone tech thanks to the ambitious blueprint with the move meaning that phone lines can be expanded and won’t ever be engaged. The remaining practices are agreeing dates within the next month for upgrades to happen with tech suppliers.

In the North West, 4,320 additional staff have been recruited into healthcare roles at general practices since 2019 as part of the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS).  In March, 51% of appointments were delivered by people in roles other than a GP.

Having additional support for GPs makes it more convenient for people to get the help they need from general practice primary care services, ensuring they are seen by the right health professional – whether that’s a GP, nurse, physio or mental health practitioner – at the right time, in a way that’s right for them.

Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu is NHS England – North West’s Regional Director of Commissioning and Senior Responsible Officer for Primary Care Access Recovery Plan and Executive lead for Primary Care Transformation and delivery.

She said: “The latest data demonstrates that more people are getting the care they need, when they need it, thanks to the hard work of our GPs and their teams.

“GPs and their staff have already delivered on a number of pledges made a year ago in the publication of the Primary Care Access Recovery Plan, and thanks to schemes like Pharmacy First, we are freeing up more capacity in the system than ever before.”

Dr Paula Cowan, a GP in Wirral and Regional Medical Director for Primary Care, NHS England – North West said: “Thanks to GPs and the multidisciplinary team work of clinicians and non-clinicians working in General Practice, more appointments are being delivered every month compared to before the pandemic with plans in place to improve access even further.

“Advances are being made in access to General Practice including digital triage alongside upgrading telephone systems to make it easier for patients to contact their surgery, while patients can use the NHS app to order repeat prescriptions and view their test results without needing to contact their family doctor.

“We know there is more to do to make it easier for patients to access GP services, which is why, building on the successes so far of the primary care access recovery plan we will continue to modernise general practice, expand pharmacy services, and offer patients more choice in how they access care.”