GP practices offering the lowest number of appointments could be named and shamed later as new league tables are released for the first time.
Data out on Thursday will detail how many appointments each operation in England delivers and how long it takes to be seen.
The statistics will be published on the NHS Digital website and Health Secretary Steve Barclay says it will “allow patients to make a more informed choice” about which practice they visit.
However, some doctors say that comparing surgeries may not be so straightforward because of different patient characteristics.
For example, a small coastal town with many elderly people could have surgeries that offer fewer appointments than a busy inner-city practice with a younger population.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, president of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said there were “serious concerns” about how useful comparisons will be “as with general practice you rarely compare like with like”.
“What works in one practice may not in another, so they want to tailor their services to their patient population,” she said.
“We are concerned that this data will be used to create arbitrary ‘league tables’ that do not take into account different patient demographics and practices, and that those appearing at the bottom will be subject to undue criticism at a time when the profession already is demoralized and working under severe pressure.
“We also understand that the data released Thursday will be experimental, so it’s unclear how comprehensive or useful it will be.”
The release of the data comes amid concerns that not enough new GPs are coming through to replace those who are leaving.
Health Education England said on Wednesday that 4,032 trainees gained placements this year, but the RCGP estimates that up to 19,000 existing doctors could leave in the next five years due to workload.
The Prime Minister’s letter of appointment to the new Health Secretary also reportedly dropped a target – and the Tory manifesto pledge – to recruit 6,000 more GPs by the end of 2024.
Former health secretary Sajid Javid admitted this year that the target was unlikely to be met due to the number of GPs taking early retirement.