Outpatient clinics in large cities in England have a higher number of patients per GP than those in cities or small towns, while there is a marked difference between places with high and low levels of deprivation, analysis shows .
South West England has the lowest number of patients per fully qualified doctor, while London has the highest, although all regions have seen a “steady increase” in recent years.
Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that across England there were 1,720 patients per doctor in general practice in October, down from 1,800 four years ago.
But excluding trainees and locums from the total, the number of patients per fully qualified family doctor rose from 2,120 to 2,260.
“This suggests that there are more trainee doctors and fewer fully qualified general practitioners now than in 2018,” the ONS said.
Less populated areas tend to have fewer patients per doctor than more urban areas, the analysis shows.
Big cities had the highest number of patients per fully qualified doctor, at 2,400, while cities – excluding London – had 2,290.
However, medium and small towns had 2,280 and 2,100 patients per family doctor, respectively, and small built-up areas with fewer than 5,000 people had the minimum at 1,950.
Regionally, London had the highest number of patients per fully qualified general practitioner (2,450) while the South West had the fewest (1,980).
“There has been a steady increase in the number of patients per qualified general practitioner across all regions of England, although the increase has been minimal in the South West,” the ONS said.
General practice practices serving patients in less deprived areas tended to have fewer patients per doctor than those in more deprived areas.
There were 2,370 patients per fully qualified physician in areas with the highest levels of income deprivation, compared with 2,070 in areas with the lowest levels.
There were also fewer patients per fully qualified physician in the studies with the highest proportion of people age 65 and older (1,980) than in the studies with the lowest proportion (2,620).
“A combination of factors” are likely to influence the number of patients per GP, including the funding available for practices and changes in local areas such as new housing developments, the ONS added.
“The average age of patients tends to be related to the type of area they live in. There is evidence to suggest that older people are more likely to live in affluent rural areas, compared to younger people who are more likely to live in areas of higher levels of deprivation and population.”