Industrial action by doctors hit a fifth of GP practices, figures have shown.
In some areas of England, more than a quarter (26%) of GP surgeries saw only those patients in urgent need of care as doctors took action for the first time in almost four decades over the government’s controversial pension reforms.
Across the country, 2,703 operations were postponed and 18,717 outpatient appointments were rescheduled, based on figures from strategic health authorities in England.
The data suggests the action affected services at 21% of GP practices across the country but the British Medical Association (BMA) estimated that a third of GP practices had taken part in some sort of action.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of council at the BMA, said that doctors had sent a “strong message” to ministers that a better deal on pensions must be found.
Mr Meldrum said: “Because doctors have been in their places of work as usual, it was always going to be difficult to put a figure on the number taking part - the Government’s figures need to be treated with extreme caution.
“Our feedback from the doctors co-ordinating the action on the ground indicates that in England up to a quarter of non-urgent cases have been postponed, and about a third of GP practices have been taking some form of action.
“Our intention has not been to maximise the impact on patients, but to communicate the scale of doctors’ anger and to encourage the government back to the table.
“Doctors have sent a strong message that a fairer approach must be found.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health claimed just 8% of doctors working in the NHS in England, or 11,500, showed their support.
The department said 2,000 out of 6,000 GP surgeries had at least one member of staff taking part.
In the south of England, 482 practices, or 26%, saw at least one member of staff take action while in the Midlands and the east of England a quarter of GP surgeries operated a reduced service.
In the north of England, 23% of GP surgeries took part in the day of action and 11% of practices in London treated only urgent cases.