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Nurses take one in four general practice appointments

A quarter of general practice appointments in England are booked with nurses, a new survey of GP patients has revealed.  

Official figures from NHS England show that 25% of appointments were booked with a nurse in the last 12 months, a slight rise from 24% in 2018. 

Most appointments were with a GP (70%) while a small number were with a pharmacist (1%) or another healthcare professional (3%), the survey of 770,512 patients found.

Although eight in 10 patients (83%) described their overall experience of their GP practice as ‘good’, this is down slightly from 84% the previous year. 

Patients are finding it increasingly difficult to get through to their GP practice on the phone, with nearly a third (32%) describing the process as ‘not easy’.  

While this only represents a slight increase of 2% from 2018, the proportion has been rising each year from a low of 19% in 2012. 

However, patients are now more likely to be aware that their GP practice offers the ability to book appointments online (44%), a rise of 3% from 2018.  

This is reflected in the increasing number of patients booking appointments online, up from 13% last year to 15% in 2019. 

The findings came as NHS England set out plans to review access to general practice across England.

It will look to make improvements to pre-bookable and same day GP appointments, review patient feedback on face-to-face and online consultations, and offer greater choice and access to appointments. 

Acting director of primary care for NHS England Dr Nikita Kanani, who will chair the review, said: ‘Family doctors in England see nearly one million people every day and this survey shows they appreciate the fantastic job they do alongside other practice staff such as nurses and pharmacists. 

‘However, GPs continue to face pressure and increasing demand and while seven in 10 patients were satisfied with the appointment they were offered, some patients were waiting longer than they would have liked to see their GP.’  

Dr Kanani pointed to the additional £4.5 billion of added investment into primary and community care by 202-24, which will help recruit 20,000 more specialist healthcare workers and professionals to support general practice.  

She continued: ‘Increasingly, patients will see their general practices bolstered by teams of health professionals such as social prescribers, pharmacists and therapists, as well as clinical nurses, physician associates and community paramedics, who will give them the specialist care they need, while freeing up family doctors to care for the sickest people.’