25% increase in GP appointments in Somerset than before the pandemic

GP Teams in Somerset have been working hard to ensure patients get the care they need. In 2023, they delivered 3,600,868 appointments, an increase of 25% from 2019. This is the equivalent of each person in Somerset seeing their practice six times this year. 42% of appointments took place on the same day.

62% of these appointments were held face to face. Every GP practice offers face-to-face appointments as well as telephone and online consultations, with some patients choosing remote appointments where it is clinically appropriate and more convenient for them.

56% of appointments were with either a nurse, physiotherapist, clinical pharmacist or other clinician. This is 30% higher than in 2019, highlighting the important role of the multi-disciplinary team.

Local GP practice teams include a range of healthcare professionals who are highly skilled and knowledgeable in the areas they specialise in and are able to diagnose and treat a variety of health conditions.

The team may include nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, physician associates, social prescriber link workers and healthcare assistants, who work alongside GPs to ensure patients see the right person at the right time. If it is most appropriate for patients to see a doctor, they will still be offered an appointment with a GP. However, the GP isn’t always the best person to see.

The NHS published a plan last year to improve access to GP services, which includes modernising telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their surgery. In Somerset, 58 of 62 practices have already moved to cloud-based telephony systems, which bring a range of benefits, such as call queueing so that patients never get an engaged tone. We expect all 62 practices to be upgraded by the end of May.

The plans also included ways to boost access to general practice for patients, including more ways to access care for common conditions from high street pharmacies. The Pharmacy First programme launched in January, meaning patients can now get treatment for seven common conditions directly from their local pharmacy. This includes prescription-only medicines, including antibiotics and antivirals where clinically appropriate, to treat seven common health conditions without the need to visit a GP.

Bernie Marden, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Somerset, “GP teams are working exceptionally hard, carrying out record numbers of appointments for patients. GP surgeries across the country are experiencing significant and growing strain with rising demand.

“With demand on primary care increasing, it’s important that we do things to help improve patients’ experience and access to GP services.

“GP surgeries are now offering more appointments than ever before with a variety of health professionals such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, and mental health professionals to provide the support that best meets the needs of the patient.

“I understand how important it is for people to receive the right care and timely support in a way that suits their needs, and I would thank patients for treating staff with respect. “The continued improvements to how patients access general practice care is central to continue to ensure patients get the right care when they need it.