Figures show a dramatic rise in phone appointments between February 2019 and February 2022, part of a wider increase in GP appointments
"General practice, like much of the NHS at present, is under unprecedented pressure for contact and support for patients." Dr Peter Short, clinical lead primary and social care technology, NHS Digital
The number of GP appointments conducted over the phone rose from 3.2m in February 2019 to 8.8m in February 2022, according to new data from NHS Digital.
The data also showed that the total number of GP appointments rose from 23m in February 2019 to 25.3m in February 2022, or 25.7m when Covid vaccinations are included. The number of video or online appointments rose from 111,652 to 127,697.
Forty-five percent of GP appointments were made on the same day, and 92% of all appointments were attended.
The publication of data from NHS Digital now also includes data from Babylon Health, for its GP at Hand service. NHS Digital said that the change added approximately 50,000 appointments to the total appointment count each month.
Commenting on the figures, Dr Peter Short, clinical lead primary and social care technology, NHS Digital, said: “General practice, like much of the NHS at present, is under unprecedented pressure for contact and support for patients. Data on activity has historically been collected from discrete workload surveys that are burdensome and limited in scope.
“In response to a request from the secretary of state to support general practice with more accurate information, NHS Digital have been working with professional representatives, system suppliers and NHS England to collect and collate data from the appointment systems held in General Practice.
“We publish the aggregate activity data across England, from practices who are already able to access individual reports from their own systems.
“This data reflects only the planned and scheduled activity recorded within the appointment systems for much of General Practice across England, but will start to contribute valuable insight into the activity at the front line.”
FCC’s perspective: "Making appointments easier to access appears to be increasing the number of appointments and increasing the length of appointment. As technology progresses in this space there will be new considerations for time allocation and the work of GPs. For example, automation and AI- assisted triage of cases may result in GPs consistently addressing more complex needs, which may already be a part of why consultation times are increasing. In the long run, it will be important to monitor and address GPs’ fatigue and wellbeing, as well as ensuring new models of care are carefully assessed as part of pilots and initial deployment." Dr Peter Bloomfield, head of policy and research