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Non-GP staff providing almost half of general practice appointments

GP practices are facilitating more appointments than ever, although fewer of those patient consultations are with GPs and more are undertaken by other healthcare professionals.

This is the finding of a new NHS Digital data collection, which estimates that 307m appointments took place at GP practices in England in the past year.

Of those consultations over the last 12 months, 52% were with GPs, 45% with other practice staff including nurses and physiotherapists, and 3% unknown.

This includes extended hours appointments done via the DES, but not those supplied via NHS England’s flagship seven-day access programme.

Some 43% were same-day appointments; 7% within one day of booking; 20% within 2-7 days; 14% within 8-14 days; 7% within 15-21 days; 5% within 22-28 days; and 4% after more than 28 days.

But because this included follow-up appointments that may have been made for some point in the future, NHS Digital stressed it was not a good indicator of waiting times.

The data also showed that between November 2017 and May 2018, 90% of appointments were attended, 5% were DNAs and the remainder unknown.

By comparison, in 2005 GPs conducted 76% of the consultations, nurses 21%, and other practice staff 2%.

NHS Digital said the new GP appointments data will be published monthly, and should help track winter pressures in general practice.

The new publication is based on data extraction via EMIS and TPP and covers around 90% of practices in England.

Because it’s the first such data extraction, NHS Digital’s report compares the findings to previous data collected via the QResearch database of anonymised patient records.

NHS Digital aims to also include other GP IT systems in future, increasing the coverage of practices included in the dataset.