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Millions more receiving GP appointments while others ‘left suffering in pain’

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Four million more GP appointments a month are being delivered for patients compared to the same month before the pandemic, new NHS data has revealed.

New figures show that 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 per cent) of appointments were booked and attended on the same day, up 3.3 per cent on the previous month and almost seven in ten appointments were attended within seven days of booking, up 4.5 per cent on the previous month.

Other appointments such as vaccinations and routine follow-ups are booked further in advance.

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.”

GP practices are required to offer face to face appointments as well as telephone and online consultations, with some patients choosing remote appointments where it is clinically appropriate.

The new data shows that almost seven in ten GP appointments were delivered face-to-face in November.

The health service 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 per cent 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.

The figures are published as a poll commissioned by the Liberal Democrats found that a third of patients had given up on trying to book an appointment with their GP.

The poll revealed that many had resorted to ‘DIY care’ or gone to A&E instead.

Meanwhile, one in three had delayed seeing a doctor despite being in pain.

Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, said: “Patients are left suffering in pain after years of neglect under the Conservative government, who have repeatedly broken their promise to recruit more GPs.”

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