The total of 30.8m appointments delivered in general practice in October 2019 is more than 1m higher than the figure for the same month last year, figures from NHS Digital reveal. The rise means that practices delivered 3.5% more appointments this October than last.
The statistics confirm a worrying rise in GP workloads, with NHS statistics showing last month that GP appointments had surged by 2.7m in the first half of 2019/20, up from 147.8m between April and September 2018 to 150.4m during the same period a year later.
Analysis of the latest figures show that in October 2019 as total appointments soared, 65.7% of patients were seen within a week of booking - the lowest figure recorded in the 18-month period from May 2018.
Available GP time per patient falls
However, the amount of GP time available per patient in England has dropped by almost 10% over the past four years.
In September 2019, the capacity of the fully-qualified GP workforce was around 55.2 minutes per patient per year according to analysis of data on the GP workforce and numbers of registered patients by NHS Digital.
Four years earlier, however, GP capacity was 9.5% higher at 60.5 minutes per patient per year - reflecting a sharp rise in patient numbers while the GP workforce has been in decline.
Between September 2015 and September 2019 the number of FTE fully-qualified GPs in England fell by 1,088. Over the same three-year period, the number of patients registered with GP practices in England rose sharply from 56.9m to 60m, a change that has left practices facing ever-increasing pressure.