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General Practitioners

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 270717, tabled on 28 June 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the (a) adequacy of the number of GPs in the UK per capita, (b) time it takes to obtain an appointment and (c) amount of time GPs spend with patients.

Answered on

3 July 2019

Health is a devolved matter. As such, the answer refers to England only.

There is no recommendation for how many patients a general practitioner (GP) should have as the demand each patient places on their GP is different and can be affected by various factors, including rurality and patient demographics. When considering the ratio of GPs to patients it is important to consider GPs as part of the wider multidisciplinary team. Getting the skills mix right in general practice is critical in addressing workload pressures as well as in delivering appropriate patient care. NHS England has committed to providing funding towards up to 20,000 additional staff by 2023/24.

The Government has committed to growing the workforce by 5,000 additional full time equivalent doctors in English general practice as soon as possible. NHS England and Health Education England are working together with the profession to increase the GP workforce. This includes measures to boost recruitment, address the reasons why GPs are leaving the profession and encourage GPs to return to practice.

The national data for time between booking an appointment with a general practice and having the appointment in days is attached. A 12-month average from June 2018 - May 2019 has also been presented. NHS Digital’s ‘Appointments in General Practice’ data is published monthly with a two-month time lag.

The appointments data does not differentiate between emergency and routine appointments in general practice and the ‘time from booking to appointment’ does not take into consideration that many patients will be appropriately booking ahead as part of the continuity of care they receive for long-term conditions.

The data on GP appointments are from a new data collection and are still experimental therefore the data and collection method are still being refined and improved. Whilst these early datasets published by NHS Digital do not yet represent a comprehensive picture, they are an important key step in understanding pressures on primary care. NHS England, NHS Digital and the Government are working closely with GPs to understand how the data on GP appointments can be refined to improve the overall picture of primary care activity.

The average GP consultation time with a patient is determined by each practice, depending on the needs and demands of their patient list. The amount of time GPs spend with their patients is not collected or held centrally.

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