Major study shows that only 10% of patients visit the GP office for 40% and 60 times a year.

  • Only one out of ten patients takes up 40% of appointment slots, according to a study.
  • Regular attenders to GP offices visit around 60 times per calendar year.
  • These are mostly elderly people with chronic conditions like diabetes. 

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

Only ten percent of the patients are taking up 40 per cent in a study that examined 1.7 billion GP visits over two decades.

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

Patients with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or dementia are the majority of these 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.

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. This graph shows how the percentage of GP appointments that were held with a doctor since February 2019 is on the rise, although it’s still very far below pre-Covid levels. 

The major study looked at more than 1.7 billion GP consultations over the past two decades

A major analysis looked at over 1.7 billion GP consultations during the past 20 years.

Author Professor Evan Kontopantelis said: ‘This is the first study to show that frequent attenders, the top 10 per cent of consulters, have largely and progressively contributed to increased workload in general practices across the UK over the last 20 years.

‘A relatively small number of patients are accounting for a large proportion of GP workload including face-to-face consultations.

Calls for shorter Covid quarantine periods from senior doctors 

Senior GPs supported the calls to reduce quarantine periods for coronavirus cases by reducing them from ten to seven day.

Sajid Javid Health Secretary said he was looking at ways to relax the rules. Dr Rosemary Leonard suggested that now was the time to evaluate whether the long quarantine period is’really needed’.

Because so many are being isolated, she expressed concern about the “huge staff shortages” facing the health system.

She said that most people who catch the Omicron virus are not suffering from severe illness, and they recover very quickly.

Ministers reached out to their scientists asking for suggestions on how to decrease the waiting period. They expect a reply within one week. This can be safely done, according to previous studies. Patients will have to submit a negative result for release.

BBC Breakfast’s Dr Leonard stated that she was concerned. We’ve had two staff already go off – both double vaccinated and actually interestingly, neither of them were ill.’ She said one of the cases was discovered by a lateral flow test, adding: ‘She was very frustrated to have to go home for ten days.

‘We need to look at whether this ten-day isolation period is really necessary with more and more people going off sick… whether they could come back earlier when they’ve got a negative lateral flow test, because otherwise we’re going to have huge staff shortages in the NHS and the emergency services.’ 

‘Frequent attenders appear to be a major driver for the increase in consultations that have contributed to perceptions of increased workload in general practice.

‘GPs should be looking at this group of patients more closely to understand who they are and why they are consulting more frequently.’ The study, which looked at data from 845 GP surgeries, defined frequent attenders as those who visited their GP more than 90% of all other patients in the same practice.

These accounts accounted for 43% of appointments in 2018-19, as opposed to 38% in 2000-01.

These ‘frequent attendees’ now see their GP on average 21 times a year, and have 60 consultations a year in total when including other practice staff, such as nurses taking blood pressure readings. They now have around two times as many appointments than they did 20 years ago.

The study, published in BMJ Open, said many of the patients have ‘wider social and psychological needs’ that could not be met by GPs.

It added that demand from ‘frequent attenders’ meant GPs had to reduce face-to-face appointments for other patients even before the pandemic.

Daily Mail calls for more personal appointments to combat the crisis of GP care which means that many Britons cannot access their doctor.

Just 64% are in-person now, as opposed to 80% prior to the pandemic.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘As well as having more patients than 20 years ago, GPs and our teams are seeing more patients who are living with multiple, long-term conditions, who often require general practice care and services more frequently. 

“This research indicates that it is increasing complexity in workload both in practice and volume.

‘GPs know and understand their patients and we’re able to deliver the care our patients with complex health conditions need because of the relationships we’ve built with them over time. 

‘This is why it’s so important that we’re able to maintain continuity of care in general practice for those who need it, but this involves being able to spend more time with patients — and whilst demand for appointments is high, and staffing pressures in general practice prevail, being able to offer longer appointments in general practice, means being able to offer fewer overall.

‘GPs and our teams are working under intense resource and workforce pressures. Although these pressures were already present before the outbreak, the crisis has only increased them.

The British Medical Association has threatened industrial action against Government plans for more in-person patient care.