In 2014–15, there were an estimated 372 million consultations in general practice. When accessing their general practice, patients need to be able to get a convenient appointment which does not require them to wait too long and with the same doctor if that is important to them. Good access to general practice matters, because prompt diagnosis and treatment helps patients get the best outcomes when they are ill. It also reduces pressure on other parts of the NHS such as hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments. An estimated 5.8 million visits to A&E or walk-in centres in 2012–13 followed patients not being able to get an appointment or a convenient appointment in general practice.
There are around 37,000 full-time equivalent GPs working in 7,875 practices across England. Practices also employ a range of other staff including nurses, pharmacists and administrative staff. NHS England contracts with practices to provide a range of services, and in 2014–15 spent £7.7 billion (8% of its budget) on general practice. The Department and NHS England have a range of initiatives underway to improve access to general practice, including a workforce action plan to increase staffing and the Prime Minister’s GP Access Fund, which has been piloting different ways of working, including extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends.
Prepared 3 March 2016