Sharp rise in Northumberland GP appointments

GP practices in Northumberland saw a sharp spike in activity during March – with thousands more appointments recorded than the previous month.

GP surgery numbers on the rise
GP surgery numbers on the rise

NHS Digital data shows doctors carried out 189,075 appointments at surgeries in the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group area in March – 40,536 more than in February and 23,711 more the same month last year.

Demand soared at GP practices nationally, with every CCG area recording a significant rise in activity and 28.4 million appointments – the highest monthly figure since October 2019.

NHS Digital estimate around 1.2 million of the bookings were related to Covid-19 vaccinations.

Doctors' groups have warned that GPs could be hit by "unsustainable" workloads as they juggle a rising appointment numbers with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Dr Ellen Welch, of the Doctors’ Association UK, said: “These figures confirm what GPs have been trying to communicate for the last year – GP practices never closed and are in fact busier than ever."

Despite this, she added, the group was still hearing reports that patients finding it harder to get care.

A recent survey by patients’ group Healthwatch England found many people were struggling to access GP care and also raised concerns that a rise in remote appointments during the pandemic was not meeting everyone’s needs.

In Northumberland, 61% of appointments were carried out face to face in March.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “To help expand GP capacity, we have made available an additional £270m in extra funding to ensure GPs are able to continue to support all patients.”