Govt breaks promise as GP numbers fall and millions wait two weeks for appointment

31 Jul 2023

EMBARGO: For Immediate Release

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has slammed the Government for breaking its promises on GPs, as new figures reveal the number of GPs has fallen while millions of people are waiting more than two weeks for an appointment.

In September, then-Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey set out “the expectation that everyone who needs a GP appointment can get one within two weeks”. However since then, 43.4 million appointments have involved a wait of more than two weeks after booking.

In June alone, more than five million appointment dates were more than two weeks after booking, up 19% from 4.2 million in June 2022.

Separate figures also published today show that the number of GPs continues to fall. There are now 977 fewer fully-qualified GPs than in December 2019. It comes despite the Conservatives’ manifesto promise to recruit 6,000 more GPs.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to guarantee a GP appointment within seven days, or 24 hours if it’s urgent, with the extra doctors needed to make it happen. The party focused on the issue of access to GP appointments in their successful Somerton and Frome by-election campaign.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“The Conservatives have broken promise after promise on local health services, and people have had enough. The government has cut the number of GPs, leaving millions facing distressing delays of more than two weeks.

“Patients right across the country are struggling to get a GP appointment when they need one. That has devastating consequences for their health, and is putting huge extra pressure on ambulances and hospitals too.

“Everyone should be able to see their GP when they need to. Our new guarantee would not only end these long waits, but also reduce the pressure on hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.”


Notes to editors

The Appointments in General Practice, June 2023 statistics, published today by NHS Digital, are available here.

The General Practice Workforce, 30 June 2023 statistics, also published today by NHS Digital, are available here. They show that there were 27,153 FTE fully-qualified GPs in June 2023, down from 28,129 in December 2019.

The Government’s promise of GP appointments within two weeks was part of its ‘Plan for Patients’ published on 22 September 2022.




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