Some 55 per cent of patients who needed an appointment said they had avoided making one in the last 12 months, up from 42 per cent in 2021. More than a quarter had not made an appointment because they found it too difficult, up from 11 per cent in 2021.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chairman of the RCGP, said there were now 1,500 fewer qualified, full-time equivalent GPs than five years ago, leaving staff “working to their absolute limits”.
The figures show 25.9 million appointments in June, down from 27.6 million consultations in May, up from 24.7 million in the month before the first lockdown.
The figures show more than 44 per cent were same day appointments.
Situation likely to get worse
Dr Marshall said: “Working at this intensity is unsustainable and it’s unsafe for both patients and staff.
“An exhausted GP is not able to practice safely or deliver the high-quality care and services they are trained and want to deliver for patients. This is leading to GPs and other members of our teams burning out and having to evaluate their futures working in general practice, in some cases leaving the profession earlier than planned and in others reducing contracted working hours to make the job more sustainable.
“Yet working ‘part time’ in general practice often means working what would normally be considered full-time, or longer – and will likely include many hours of paperwork on top of patient appointments.”
He said the “sad reality” was that the situation is likely to get worse, with surveys suggesting that nearly 19,000 GPs could leave the profession within five years.
The RCGP is calling for an increase in funding for GPs and a reduction in bureaucracy.
The data, which was published by NHS Digital on Thursday, also shows that the total number of qualified permanent GPs in England fell from 27,912 in June 2017 to 26,859 in June 2022 – a drop of 4 per cent.
All figures are based on the number of full-time equivalent posts in the GP workforce, and do not include trainees or locums.
The figures show the NHS is increasingly dependent on doctors over the age of 60, as the number of those in their 50s falls, as rising numbers seek early retirement.
While the number of GPs aged 50 to 59 fell from 30 per cent to 28 per cent, the number aged 60 and over went from eight to 10 per cent.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Boosting our GP workforce is essential to the nation’s health, which is why we are focused on recruiting and retaining those working in general practice – and have seen nearly 1,500 more full time equivalent doctors in general practice in June 2022 compared to June 2019.
“There are record numbers of GPs in training and we increased the number of funded medical school places by 25 per cent over three years up to 2020, and we will begin to see the first wave of these students enter foundation training from this year.”