More GP practice appointments than ever, thanks to 100s more health and care staff

The number of appointments at a GP practice in Derby and Derbyshire has grown 22% over the past four years, figures show.


The increase has been achieved partly because hundreds of health and care professionals have been recruited since 2019 to support GPs in busy surgeries.


Additional staff such as physiotherapists, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and social prescribers also mean patients can be seen more quickly than if they had to wait for an appointment with a GP.


Changes are being made to the way GP practices are run under the “primary care access recovery plan“, announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year.


This is aimed at making it easier for patients to be seen in a GP practice.

One of the biggest changes is a continued growth in “additional roles” that support the traditional GP.


In Derby and Derbyshire the number of these “additional” roles has increased from 40 in 2019/20 to around 600 currently. Funding from NHS England to pay for these roles went up from £900,000 in 2019/20 to £26m in 2023/24.


In September 2019 GP practices provided 524,984 appointments, while in September 2023 it was 639,738 – a 22% increase.


Also in September 2019 the proportion of appointments seen by a GP was 48%, whereas in September 2023 this was 44%.


Research from NHS England has shown that public awareness of the roles in the East Midlands is relatively low. When asked, 71% of people didn’t know that mental health practitioners could be found in a GP practice team, 71% felt the same about physiotherapists and 85% about social prescribers. However, more than 77% people surveyed said they were happy to receive care from another health worker – recognising they didn’t always need to see a GP.


Andy Mott, a GP at Jessop Medical Practice, Alfreton, and medical director of Derby and Derbyshire GP provider board, said: “General practice now has available a wide range of highly skilled and specialist healthcare professional staff who are there to support patients.


“They also allow the GP to focus on patients who will most benefit from the GP’s expertise.


“The multi-disciplinary team plays a very important role in helping patients to be seen quickly by the most appropriate healthcare professional.”


The “additional roles” are employed by Primary Care Networks – groupings of GP practices – and deployed to individual practices or groups of practices.


They mean that patients who have recurring conditions can be seen by an expert who also has longer appointment times available – allowing a better understanding of the condition and more opportunity to address underlying issues.


The most common roles in Derby and Derbyshire include:


  • clinical pharmacist – who helps ensure patients’ medication is right for them
  • social prescriber – who supports people to address underlying issues such as loneliness, inappropriate housing or financial problems
  • first contact physiotherapist – who is able to address joint and muscle issues
  • care coordinator – who helps patients to navigate the health and care system
  • mental health practitioner – who supports patients with mental health issues


Members of the GP multi-disciplinary team in Derby and Derbyshire have been explaining their roles through short films that form part of the NHS’ local information campaign over the busy winter months.


Warren Day, first contact physiotherapist at Hollybrook Medical Centre, Derby, says: “I am able to give the patient a thorough assessment.


“I can find out what happened, how long it’s been happening, what causes pain, what have you done previously, whether you’ve taken any medication for it and I do a physical examination.”


Paul Whitfield, paramedic at Hollybrook Medical Centre, Derby, said: “I tend to deal with sudden and serious illnesses. I have 15 minute appointment times and so I have more time to understand the patient and what their problems are.”


Social prescriber Sean Hedley, who works from Park Lane Surgery, Derby, said: “We get people that struggle with housing or financial issues, or they are lonely and isolated. We have a long chat with the person and we try and find the root cause. The social prescriber is there to offer the support that’s needed.”