Access to General Practice in England Contents


Most of the contact that people have with the NHS is with their general practice. Good access to appointments in general practice is important not only for patients’ health but also to reduce pressure on other parts of the NHS. Generally patients have a positive experience of getting and booking appointments, and they trust and value their GP. However, patients’ ability to get an appointment, and to get one with the doctor they want, has gradually but consistently declined in recent years, and the proportion of patients reporting problems in accessing general practice has increased. There is also significant variation in the experience of different groups of patients and between different practices. Younger people, those from minority ethnic groups and those in deprived areas are less likely to be able to book an appointment.

In recent years the Department of Health (the Department) and NHS England have failed to ensure that staffing in general practice has kept pace with growing demand. They appear to have been complacent about general practice’s ability to cope with the increase in demand caused by rising public expectations and the needs of an ageing population, many of whom have multiple health conditions. The Department and NHS England now seem to recognise the urgent need for action and they envisage significant changes in general practice over the next few years. NHS England has committed to increasing funding for general practice and is seeking to increase the number of GPs, to make more use of technology, and to support the creation of more federations of practices and multi-disciplinary large practices. To help general practice to change, NHS England needs to do more to identify and evaluate what works, and to ensure that best practice is applied more widely.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 3 March 2016