Is It Really Impossible to See a GP? A Closer Look

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17 June 2024

Current State of GP Access

In a recent blog by the NHS Confederation, the challenges and misconceptions about accessing GP appointments in the UK were discussed. Despite the narrative that GP access is nearly impossible, statistics show a different story. Since the pandemic, the number of GP appointments has surged, with nearly 50 million more appointments delivered by October 2023 compared to 2019. However, challenges such as a declining GP workforce, regional disparities, and patient dissatisfaction with non-GP practitioners persist.

Challenges in the System

  1. Declining Number of GPs: The GP workforce is shrinking, creating pressure on the remaining practitioners and extending wait times for patients.
  2. Regional Disparities: Access to GPs varies significantly by region, with some areas facing more acute shortages and longer wait times than others.
  3. Patient Dissatisfaction: There is a noticeable dissatisfaction among patients when they are seen by non-GP practitioners, which impacts the overall perception of care quality.

Solutions and Improvements

Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach:

  1. Introducing New Pathways and Models: Streamlining administrative tasks and optimising appointment schedules can help free up GP time for patient care.
  2. Balancing Regional Disparities: Redistributing workloads and resources can help ensure more equitable access to GP services across different regions.
  3. Managing Workforce Challenges: Enhancing the work environment and reducing burnout through better management of shift patterns can help retain existing GPs and attract new ones.


The notion that it is impossible to see a GP is not entirely accurate, but the challenges facing the system are real. With continued efforts to improve access and strategic solutions, the healthcare system can better meet the demands of a growing population and ensure equitable access to quality care across the UK. Investing in workforce management and support systems is a crucial step in addressing these ongoing issues and supporting the sustainability of general practice.

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