- Of the 23.9 million GP consultations in August, only 13.7 million were in person
- Face-to-face appointments ratio not much higher than in lockdown
- A campaign group is pushing for the legal right to see doctors in person
Last month there were one million fewer face-to-face GP appointments – at the same rate as the winter lockdown, figures showed yesterday.
According to NHS England, out of 23.9 million GP consultations in August, only 13.7 million were in person.
This is down from 14.6 million a month before the pandemic and 18.1 million in August 2019.
The proportion of face-to-face appointments in August – 57.7 per cent – is not much higher than January’s 54 per cent, even though all legal restrictions have now been lifted.
Of the 23.9 million GP consultations in August, just 13.7 million were in person, according to NHS England (stock image).
More than ten million GP appointments are conducted remotely every month – three times more than before the pandemic when 80 percent were face-to-face.
The Mail is campaigning for GPs to see patients, amid fears that phone and video consultations have left serious diseases like cancer. Our campaign has been supported by Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson – who said people ‘deserved’ to see a GP in person. But yesterday’s data shows that family doctors have yet to resume normal service.
Denise Reid of Silver Voice, a campaign group for over 60s pushing for the legal right to see doctors in person, said firm action was needed.
He said: ‘My general reaction is one of disappointment, shocking and disturbing that the level of face-to-face appointments has not increased since the lockdown ended.
‘There have been a lot of public concerns and statements from politicians in recent weeks, but none of it appears to be making much of a difference.
‘Doctors can no longer use Covid as an excuse. There was a good reason the face-to-face appointments stopped during the pandemic. But the entire economy and society is now moving towards life before Covid, yet the pattern of GP appointments has not changed.
“We have heard the statements of Sajid Javid saying that he will take strong action on this, but we need to see bold action, not just words. If the face-to-face ratio in practices improves and punishment does not improve, there should be incentives.’
During the first wave, between April and July last year, the proportion of face-to-face appointments dropped below 50 percent.
Last night, it emerged that GPs would receive additional funding this winter to help them resume pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face care.
A planning document from NHS England said the additional investment from October to March is aimed at ensuring that all practices are ‘providing the appropriate pre-pandemic placement level, including face-to-face care’.
The proportion of in-person appointments so far this year has been between 50 and 60 per cent. Mr Javid has warned doctors that those who continue to provide unacceptably low levels of face-to-face access will be held to account.
He has said that he will eliminate red tape to allow time for more personal appointments to family doctors.
Yesterday’s data also showed that there is a huge postcode lottery in face-to-face appointments.
Denise Reid of Silver Voice, a campaign group for over 60s pushing for the legal right to see doctors in person, said firm action was needed (stock image)
In some areas, including North Tyneside, about three quarters of consultations were in person.
But in parts of south-east London, East Staffordshire and Merseyside, less than half of consultations take place face-to-face.
A key point in Mail’s campaign is that patients should be able to receive appointments in person, no matter where they live.
GP leaders have warned that face-to-face appointments will never return to pre-pandemic levels, highlighting shortages of funding and staff.
Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of GPs, said the latest figures suggest there is a ‘misunderstanding’ that GPs are not seeing patients face-to-face.
He added: ‘Remote consultation will not always be appropriate.
‘That’s why appointments are being made in person – making about six in ten consultations in August – and have been throughout the pandemic when needed. Face-to-face consultation will always be an essential part of normal practice.’
An NHS spokesman said: ‘Every GP practice should provide face-to-face as well as telephone and online appointments as part of making primary care as accessible as possible for patients.’