In a short time, complaints against GPs more than tripled. The majority of them came from those who could not book appointments because they were too busy with their GP practice.

According to the Care Quality Commission, 8,267 patients reached out to the Health Regulator between January and November 2013. This was almost three times as many people who had contacted it the year prior. 

According to patient groups, the rise in complaints is a sign of a “worrying fall” as many people are unable to get face-to-face appointments due the pandemic.

According to recent statistics, only 64% of appointments now take place in person, compared with 88% before the pandemic.

Last month, people were also told they would have to wait for their ‘routine’ appointments so GPs could focus on delivering booster jabs.

Chairman of Royal College of GPs, Dr. John McLaughlin said that the statistics showed the ‘intense workload’ GPs were under. The NHS however stated that the figures show that ‘general practice works hard to make sure patients receive the care they require’.

Patients' groups said the increase in complaints represents a 'worrying decline' as people have struggled to access face-to-face appointments because of the pandemic (stock image)

Patient groups claimed that the increased number of complaints is indicative of a ‘worrying decrease’, as patients have had difficulty accessing face-to–face appointments since the pandemic. (stock image).

Silver Voices’ Dennis Reed stated that complaints only represent a small percentage of elderly patients and most would never complain.

According to him, “Situations must be quite extreme for people go so far as to complain at the inspectorate,” he said to The Telegraph.

‘For all of these thousands of cases there will be many more people who struggle to get to see their GP, and don’t complain, but don’t get their symptoms seen, or don’t get them seen until it’s far more serious.’

Official figures revealed that four out of ten GP appointments were held in England in September 2016 despite increasing calls to have doctors see patients face-to-face. 

NHS Digital’s September report revealed that 39% of 28.5million NHS Digital appointments in September 2021 took place outside a hospital. The majority were conducted over the telephone or online.

Ministers intervened to increase the rate to 63% in November. The current rate is at 64%.

This figure is a substantial drop in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, when around 80 percent of all GP visits were conducted face-to-face. 

Complaints about GPs have almost tripled in a year with the 'vast majority' of those coming from people who were unable to book an appointment due to surgeries prioritising the booster rollout (stock image)

The number of complaints about GPs has almost doubled over a single year, with the majority coming from patients who couldn’t book appointments due to the surgeries prioritising the booster program (stock image). 

Rosie Benneyworth was the CQC’s chief inspector of primary health services. Since the beginning of the pandemic she has not conducted routine inspections at GP surgeries.

“The majority of these concerns relate to access to care in general practices.

Dr Benneyworth explained that although the majority of the feedback received has been negative, the percentage of positive comments has increased by 804 to 1,462. 

Chairman of Royal College of GPs Martin Marshall said that physicians and their teams had been working under an ‘intense workload and workforce’ in the years before Covid. However, this was ‘exacerbated’ by the pandemic.

The size of the workforce decreased by 6 per cent in August 2015 to August 2021. Meanwhile, there was an increase in the number of patients, which increased the ratio of patients to doctors. 

The above graph shows the proportion of GP appointments that were held with a doctor since February 2019. It reveals that the proportion is rising but is still far off pre-Covid levels

Below is a graph showing the number of GP appointments held since February 2019, which shows how many were with a particular doctor. The graph shows that this proportion is increasing, but it is still below pre-Covid levels. 

An NHS spokesman told the Telegraph: ‘The latest GP appointment figures show that general practice is working hard to ensure patients get the care they need, with more than 30 million appointments delivered in October and in response to patient feedback we have created a £250m access plan for general practices to improve access for patients and to support GP teams this winter.

‘General practice continues to play a vital role in delivering the fastest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history, with more than 3.5 million people vaccinated by GPs last month – 2.5 million more than during September.’ 

Recent research showed family doctors are being overwhelmed by a small group of ‘frequent attenders’ who have five times more appointments than other patients.

Only ten percent of UK patients have taken 40 per cent of the 1.7 billion GP appointments over the last 20 years, according to a study.

These ‘regulars’ attend their GP surgery around 60 times a year, five times more than other patients.

The University of Manchester research — which looked at 12.3million patients over 20 years — found the number of appointments for ‘frequent attenders’ has doubled in the past 20 years.

This has contributed to ‘unmanageable’ workloads for family doctors and led to a reduction in face-to-face appointments for other patients, even before the pandemic.