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Stocktake of access to GP in England

Published: 12 December, 2015

According to a recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) people’s experience of accessing general practice remains positive, with almost 9 in 10 patients reporting in 2014-15 that they could get an appointment. However, patient satisfaction with access is gradually and consistently declining, and a fifth of patients report opening hours are not convenient. The NAO found considerable variation in access between different patient groups, by age, ethnicity, distance from their practice, and across urban/rural areas. The organisations that the NAO spoke to considered that general practice is under increasing pressure, with demand rising by more than capacity, but the Department of Health and NHS England do not have up-to-date data to estimate the number of consultations.

The report found also that the distribution of general practice staff across the country does not reflect need with deprived areas tending to have a lower ratio of GPs and nurses to patients. Problems in recruiting and retaining GPs are increasing, with 12% of training places in 2014/15 remaining unfilled. As GPs make up only 29% of the general practice workforce, they alone are unlikely to be able to deal with the rising demand for services and practices are increasingly using other staff to help manage demand.

Among the NAO’s recommendations are that NHS England should improve the data it collects on demand and supply in general practice, and research how different practices’ appointment-booking and other working arrangements drive variations in access. While making changes designed to improve access, NHS England should analyse the impact on different patient groups.

Reference: Stocktake of access to general practice in England. National Audit Office, 25 November 2015


Last updated: 12 December, 2015

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