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CQC Essentials: General practice staffing levels

The CQC explains its position on the number of appointments practices should be offering to their patients.

This article relates to the CQC key question: Is your practice responsive to people's needs?

We are sometimes asked whether we set out the number of appointments GP practices should be offering.

The CQC does not have a formula or ratio for the number of GPs sessions that should be provided per 1,000 patients. This is because care is provided using different models with a variety of skill mix: using GPs, advanced nurse practitioners, practice nurses, physician associates and healthcare assistants. Practices take differing approaches dependent on their circumstances.

The RCGP in Scotland suggests practices should check how their activity compares with others. A 2012/13 Scottish government study found the total annual contact rate for (including all face-to-face contacts with either a GP or a practice-employed nurse) varied from 3,000 to over 7,000 contacts per 1,000 registered patients. GPs undertook an average of two thirds of the consultations in their sample. The average standardised practice had a total of 85 face to face contacts per 1,000 patients per week, 56 of these by a GP.

A GP practice is responsible for determining how many appointments it should offer each week to meet the needs of their patients.

What we look at during inspections

We look at access under our key question of how responsive a provider is. In particular, under key lines of enquiry (KLOE):

  • R1: are services planned and delivered to meet people’s needs? This includes whether the services provided reflect the needs of the population served and ensure flexibility, choice and continuity of care.
  • R3: can people access care and treatment in a timely way? If people do not have timely access to appointments at a time that suits them, we will pick it up here.

Professor Nigel Sparrow is senior national GP advisor and responsible officer at the CQC. This article is one of Professor Sparrow's mythbusters on the CQC website.

More CQC resources

Picture: iStock

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