GP patient numbers in Winchester and open data

My GP's surgery, St Paul's in Winchester, has an adjacent pharmacy and small private car park. It's always been very busy, but recently I've found myself queuing to get a place. It got me thinking - has my surgery actually got busier over the last few years.

Cue looking for some open data. A Google search took me to:

Numbers of Patients Registered at a GP Practice (practice level, 5 year age groups) on data.gov.uk. It lists data for 5 years.

Confusingly, some datasets are directly downloadable, whilst others are hosted on the NHS Digital Catalogue.

The data sets have unhelpful file names and were not all consistent. Some had the the GP Practice code and postcode, whilst others only had the GP Practice code. Also, at GP Practice level data are released in single year of age bands and 5-year age bands both of which finish at 95+, split by gender and aggregated, but for some datasets I could only find the 'single year of age' version.

After downloading the datasets, it was a simple, if tedious, job to use Google sheets to tidy the data and visualise it.

So, my practice has certainly increased its patient numbers, by 29.7% over 5 years, from April 2013 to March 2018.

St Paul's Surgery Winchester - Patients registered 2013-18 St Paul's Surgery Winchester - Patients registered 2013-18

An analysis of the growth across the 5 year bands explained why. Whilst most bands have increased steadily, from 2016 onwards there has been a sharp increase in the number of people in the 15-19 year old and 20-24 year old bands. This is especially marked for females.

Apr 2013 Apr 2014 Apr 2015 Apr 2016 Apr 2017 Mar 2018 % inc. '13-'18
TOTAL_ALL 14291 15003 15637 16626 17782 18538 29.70%
TOTAL_MALE 7062 7325 7513 7925 8440 8817 24.90%
MALE_15-19 367 430 468 505 565 594 61.90%
MALE_20-24 419 424 454 591 742 843 101.20%
TOTAL_FEMALES 7229 7678 8124 8701 9342 9721 34.50%
FEMALE_15-19 315 508 595 646 792 830 163.50%
FEMALE_20-24 418 432 623 877 1093 1233 195.00%

Or visually:

St Paul's Surgery Winchester - Female Patients registered 2013-18 St Paul's Surgery Winchester - Female Patients registered 2013-18

The growth in numbers for these age bands would point to students using the practice. The University of Winchester advises students:

We encourage all our students to register with a GP practice. There are three GP practices in Winchester. These are St Clements Practice, The Friarsgate Practice and St Paul's Surgery... You can choose to register at any of these GP practices.

However, St Paul's is the nearest practice to the University and seems to have attracted most students. I haven't analysed the age band data for the other practices, but the number of patients at the other practices has been essentially constant.

Winchester GP practices  - Patients registered 2013-18 Winchester GP practices - Patients registered 2013-18

I'd make the assertion that most of the students aren't driving to the surgery and that the increasing business of the car park is due to the gradually growth in other ages bands at St Paul's.