Wigan GP practices saw a sharp spike in activity during March
Wigan GP practices saw a sharp spike in activity during March, with nearly 20,000 more appointments recorded than in the previous month.
Doctors’ groups have warned that GPs could buckle under the pressure of “unsustainable” workloads as they juggle rising numbers of appointments with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
NHS Digital data shows doctors carried out 108,666 appointments with patients at surgeries in the NHS Wigan Borough CCG area in March – 19,275 more than in February.
Nationally, 28.4 million appointments were recorded in March – the highest monthly figure since October 2019.
“These figures confirm what GPs have been trying to communicate to the public for the last year, that GP practices never closed and we are in fact busier than ever,” said Dr Ellen Welch, of the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK).
Despite this, she added, the group was still hearing reports that patients are finding it harder than ever to access care.
DAUK recently wrote a letter to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding an urgent review into demand at GP practices, after it saw workloads “going through the roof”.
“We are yet to receive a reply to our letter to the Government about this,” Dr Welch added. “But DAUK remains concerned that practices are working beyond capacity, leading to burnout and problems with staff retention, which ultimately impacts on patient care.”
A recent survey by patients’ group Healthwatch England, which drew on patients’ experiences up to December, found many people were struggling to access care from their GP.
It also raised concerns that the rise in remote appointments during the pandemic was not meeting everyone’s needs.
In Wigan, 58 per cent of appointments were carried out face-to-face in March, based on those for which the appointment type was recorded.
That was down from 68 per cent a year earlier, although NHS Digital said changes in how practices operate during the pandemic may have affected how appointments are recorded.
Thank you for reading. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription. Thanks again.