Shortage of GPs and Rising Patient Numbers

ill person healthcareExperts are warning that the system is likely to be overwhelmed by a combination of doctor shortages and rising patient numbers. 

Even before the pandemic, GP numbers were a concern.

Yet now the country is facing a further health crisis and fears are that  the system will be unable to cope with the health needs of the population.

The pandemic has caused severe disruption for GP practices from which many have yet to recover. The Health Foundation’s analysis of NHS England data from 2020-21 vs the previous year shows:

  • 10% fewer appointments, equating to 31 million fewer consultations with GPs and practice nurses
  • Proportion seen ‘face to face’ dropped from 79% to 54% with more consultations carried out remotely (phone/video call)
  • Urgent cancer check-up referrals from GPs dropped by 15%

For a number of months, patients were unable to access normal appointments. While some were able to get care via telephone or video consultations, many patients simply delayed seeking help due to the pandemic situation.

The result is a recent surge in the numbers looking for consultations and treatment. As a consequence, March 2021 saw over 28 million appointments booked with GPs and practice nurses, among the highest recorded, according to analysis of NHS England data by the Health Foundation.

Yet patient groups are reporting that many more people are still struggling to get through and make an appointment and doctors are concerned that there are potentially millions of undiagnosed and untreated conditions yet to be uncovered.

Sara Bainbridge, from Macmillan Cancer Support, says these delays could have a “devastating impact” with fewer diagnoses reducing survival chances.

Other serious conditions are also being missed and when patients do come forward, doctors are finding that their health has deteriorated further due to the delays.

Imelda Redmond of Healthwatch England added that remote consultations don’t suit everyone and some have struggled to access healthcare over the last year:

“Those affected are often the most vulnerable in our society – older people, disabled people, those affected by homelessness and on low incomes.”

Yet while the pandemic has made the situation considerably worse, the declining numbers of GPs over the last few years was already causing difficulties. Campaigns to increase GP numbers have yet to reverse the trend.

Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, says:

“General practice was already facing intense workforce and workload pressures – the pandemic has only exacerbated these. We urgently need more GPs and other members of the practice team.”

For more information see

Patients are urged to pursue diagnosis and treatment to avoid delays in accessing healthcare; yet this can take some persistence with appointments very difficult to come by in certain areas.

Private GPs & Healthcare, London

For those wanting the peace of mind that comes with ready access to GP healthcare, membership of The Smart Clinics offers an alternative option. Benefits include:

  • Private GPs based in 4 London locations
  • 30 minute standard appointment times – over 3 times the average NHS appointment
  • Short waiting lists
  • Evening and weekend clinics available
  • Telephone and video appointment options
  • Many health tests can be arranged privately with faster results
  • Team of medical experts for fast and efficient referral

The Smart Clinics

Private Healthcare London

“London’s pre-eminent integrated healthcare clinics” The Smart Clinics is a private healthcare company established in 2013, offering a membership-based alternative to NHS care for individuals and families. Vital health services include private GPs, travel clinic, sexual health, skin treatments, psychology, physiotherapy and much more. There are also a range of children’s services available, including immunisation and health visitors and the Chelsea clinic includes a dentistry studio.

The Smart Clinics brings together a host of medical professionals offering patients high quality health services in a choice of accessible London clinic locations.

For more information contact us on or call  020 7052 0070.

Contact Us

Make An Appointment

Services are available through our a affordable membership packages or on a drop in 'pay as you go' basis. High quality medical healthcare is readily available:

  • Longer appointment times
  • No waiting lists
  • Evening and weekend appointments
  • Telephone, video and in-person consultations


Call our team on 020 7052 0070

  • Chelsea - Hollywood Rd: Option 2
  • South Ken - Thurloe Place: Option 4
  • Wandsworth - Northcote Rd: Option 5
  • Wandsworth - Bellevue Rd: Option 6

Lines open 8.30-5.30 Monday to Friday, 9.00-12.00 Saturday

Get In Touch

    Subscribe to emails/newsletters
    Terms of Use | Privacy | Cookies