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General practice in England nearing ‘saturation point’

The largest analysis of GP and nurse consultations to date shows that workloads in general practice have increased by 16 per cent over the past seven years, with more frequent and longer consultations. The authors, reporting their findings in The Lancet, warn that the increases are unsustainable and that general practice in England could be reaching saturation point.

“For many years, doctors and nurses have reported increasing workloads, but for the first time, we are able to provide objective data that this is indeed the case,” says Professor Richard Hobbs, lead author from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care and Health Sciences, University of Oxford.

“The demands on general practice have increased substantially over the past seven years. Recruitment of new GPs and nurses remains low while the population in England steadily increases. As currently delivered, the system seems to be approaching saturation point.”

Overall, the authors find that the workload in general practice (GP and nurses combined) has increased by 16 per cent (1,095 days per 10,000 patient years in 2007 to 1,270.3 days in 2014). The study is based on an analysis of over 100 million GP and nurse consultations at 398 general practices in England between 2007 and 2014 – equivalent to 4.5 per cent of all GP practices in England.

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