NHS Digital data reveals a spike in GP appointments across East Riding

GP practices in the East Riding saw a spike in activity during March, with tens of thousands more appointments recorded than in the previous month.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:10 am
Doctors’ groups have warned that GPs could buckle under the pressure of “unsustainable” workloads. Photo: PA Images

Doctors’ groups have warned that GPs could buckle under the pressure of “unsustainable” workloads as they juggle rising numbers of appointments with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

NHS Digital data shows doctors carried out 156,806 appointments with patients at surgeries in the NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG area in March – 25,857 more than in February.

That was also 32,325 more than during the same month last year, at the start of the pandemic. Demand soared at GP practices across England, with every CCG area in the country recording a significant uptick in activity.

Nationally, 28.4 million appointments were recorded in March – the highest monthly figure since October 2019.

It means doctors delivered 4.8 million more consultations than they did the month before.

NHS Digital estimated that around 1.2 million of the bookings were related to Covid-19 vaccinations.

“These figures confirm what GPs have been trying to communicate to the public for the last year, that GP practices never closed and we are in fact busier than ever,” said Dr Ellen Welch, of the Doctors’ Association UK.

A recent survey by patients’ group Healthwatch England, which drew on patients’ experiences up to December, found many people were struggling to access care from their GP.

In the East Riding, 67% of appointments were carried out face to face in March, based on those for which the appointment type was recorded. That was down from 78% a year earlier, although NHS Digital said changes in how practices operate during the pandemic may have affected how appointments are recorded.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said GPs have played a vital role in the response to Covid-19, caring for vulnerable patients while administering a large proportion of vaccinations.

An NHS spokeswoman said there are now almost 440 more GPs than last year across England.