GP appointments in England were up by four million last month, according to the latest NHS Digital GP workforce figures for England and GP appointment data.

This means GPs saw 17% more patients in March than the previous month and back to pre-pandemic levels of activity. Of this, 63% of patients were seen face-to-face or at home, another monthly increase and 44% of appointments took place on the day they were booked.

The NHS Confederation said this data shows that primary care teams continue to work flat out to address increasing and more complex demand.

Ruth Rankine, director of primary care, said: “It is testament to the perpetual hard work of all those working in primary care that more people’s needs are being met, including patients being supported as they wait for care from other parts of the NHS.”

GP numbers continue to spiral downwards

The BMA however expressed concern that the level of demand was completely untenable for practices, for GPs and for patients as GP numbers continued to spiral downwards.

 Dr Kieran Sharrock, BMA England GP committee deputy chair, said: “Compared with this time a year ago, England has the equivalent of 369 fewer full-time, fully qualified GPs – having lost 30 in the most recent month alone. This means each day there is one less doctor for patients to see.

“On top of that, we have lost almost 1,600, fully-qualified, full-time equivalent GPs since 2015. This trend, of demand rocketing while we haemorrhage doctors, is pushing the remaining staff to breaking point as they take on more and more each day, to a point which is not safe for them and certainly not safe for patients.

“The whole healthcare system is under pressure like never before, with record waits for operations and procedures, meaning more patients waiting often in a huge deal of pain and seeking support from their practice.

He added that government and policymakers need to urgently listen to the alarm bells being rung by practices around the country, and work with the profession to come to solutions that ease the pressures, turn the tide on the exodus of GPs and enable them to provide safe care that patients deserve.