Drop in GP appointments across Newcastle and Gateshead in December

Dr Laurence Buckman checks a patient's blood pressure in his practice room at Temple Fortune Health Centre GP Practice near Golders Green, London.Dr Laurence Buckman checks a patient's blood pressure in his practice room at Temple Fortune Health Centre GP Practice near Golders Green, London.
Dr Laurence Buckman checks a patient's blood pressure in his practice room at Temple Fortune Health Centre GP Practice near Golders Green, London.
Fewer GP appointments were carried out in Newcastle and Gateshead in December, figures show, as health care workers across England focused their efforts on the coronavirus booster jab rollout.

Fewer GP appointments were carried out in Newcastle and Gateshead in December, figures show, as health care workers across England focused their efforts on the coronavirus booster jab rollout.

GP teams up and down the country were urged to free up capacity to deliver Covid vaccinations after the Government’s booster jab campaign was ramped up in December.

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A letter from the NHS at the time said this “could include pausing routine and non-urgent care and redeploying staff” to support the rollout.

NHS Digital figures show 220,047 GP appointments were held across the NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG area in December.

That was 16% fewer than the month before, but 3% more than the 214,478 which took place in December 2020.

Appointments remained above pre-pandemic levels at the end of last year – 199,289 sessions were held in December 2019.

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Across England, 25 million GP appointments were held last December – 17% fewer than 30.3 million in November.

However, this was a 6% rise from 23.7 million in December 2020 and 8% higher than in December 2019.

NHS England said the most recent figures did not include vaccination appointments and walk-ins, with more than 6 million jabs delivered by primary care networks between December 8 and 31 alone.

An NHS spokeswoman said: "General practice delivered more than 25 million routine appointments – ensuring people received urgent care, support for long-term conditions and cancer care was prioritised – whilst also delivering around half of all booster vaccinations in December, as the NHS answered the Prime Minister’s call to focus all available resource on fighting Omicron."

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NHS England asked GPs to shift their focus back to routine care in late January.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the figures showed GP surgeries were managing to deliver "consistently high" numbers of appointments under pressures exacerbated by the pandemic.

He added: "The December figures bring the number of appointments made in 2021, when taking into account multiple mass vaccination drives that GPs and our teams have led, to an unprecedented 367 million.

"The fact that such huge numbers of GP appointments have been sustained throughout such a challenging time for the NHS is a testament to the dedication of GPs and our teams to delivering good, safe and appropriate patient care."

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The NHS Digital figures also show that of the consultations held by Newcastle and Gateshead GPs in December, 68% were held face to face – down slightly from 70% a month earlier.

Across England, face-to-face appointments dropped from 63% in November to 61% in December.