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An analysis of the workload in primary care from 2007 to 2014, conducted by researchers at the Universities of Oxford and Bristol, found that increases in average consultation rates rose by 13.5% over the seven year period.

The research, published in The Lancet, found that people are visiting their GPs more often, and are having longer consultations than they were in 2007, resulting in a 16% rise in clinical workload. Researchers suggest that the overall primary care system in England may be reaching "saturation point."

Lead author, the School's director Professor Richard Hobbs, from Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said "Most English practices offer patients 10 minute appointment slots, based on the expectation that some consultations will be shorter or patients won't show up, so longer consultations can be accommodated within the booked clinic. Since the average face-to-face consultation is now approaching the 10 minute threshold, there is no longer any slack - GPs and nurses are now consulting throughout the booked clinic without a break and demand for those clinic slots is rising."

Because consultations are both happening more often and taking longer, the combined effect is that the overall workload of doctors and nurses in general practice has increased by 16% over seven years, while time spent by GPs with patients has increased by 18%. This increased workload for GPs is equivalent to almost an extra working day each week. These findings may explain why people are finding it increasingly difficult to get an appointment" - Co-author, Professor Chris Salisbury, Centre for Academic Primary Care, University of Bristol.

The study is the most comprehensive analysis of workload in primary care to date and involved an analysis of anonymised electronic health records from 100 million consultations with GPs and practice nurses in England. The data, obtained from 398 GP practices, was equivalent to 2.5million patient years of observation recorded in seven years. Read more on the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences website. The full press release may be found on the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division website.

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