- Family doctors are seeing fewer patients face-to-face this year than last year
- These figures come despite a hugely successful vaccine rollout and more PPE
- NHS England said in May that patients who want to meet face-to-face should meet
Despite hugely successful vaccine rollouts, better COVID treatments and a more stable supply of PPE, family doctors are seeing fewer patients than last year.
Shocking NHS figures show that only 54.8 percent of patients were in the same room with their medicine for consultations between January and July. This is compared to 59.2 per cent last year, 80 per cent in 2019 and 82 per cent in 2018.
The rest is conducted by telephone or video. However, this category also includes consultations at the patient’s home, which are extremely rare.
Statistics also show that face-to-face appointments fell below 50 per cent during the lockdown. GPs are on course to see 80 million fewer people face-to-face this year than in 2019, raising fears that more life-threatening situations will be missed.
NHS England asked surgeries in May to ensure they were offering face-to-face appointments to any patient who requests one.
Statistics show GPs are seeing fewer patients face-to-face this year than in 2020
But rates have risen marginally, from 55.6 percent in that month to 57.2 percent in July – still about a third below pre-pandemic levels.
And the figures highlight a postcode lottery of care with only two local health areas – known as clinical commissioning groups – offering more than seven out of ten appointments face-to-face.
NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG top the list with 72.6 per cent rates in July. But 13 CCGs have failed to offer half their appointments individually, with NHS South Sefton at the bottom of the league table with 44.9 percent.
Denise Reid, director of campaign group Silver Voices over 60, is calling for patients to be given the legal right to ‘timed face-to-face GP appointments’. His petition on the official government website has over 16,000 signatures and will be considered for debate in parliament if it reaches 100,000. A survey of more than 500 veterans by the campaign group in May found that 71 percent struggled to get a face-to-face appointment.
And the figures highlight a postcode lottery of care with only two local health areas – known as clinical commission groups – offering more than seven out of ten appointments face-to-face. [File photo]
Mr Reid said: ‘If you can get through your GP surgery on the phone you will be questioned by a receptionist and will have to jump through many hoops to get an appointment. Many elders find it so difficult that they have given up trying and suffer at home. It is very worrying and stressful for them.
Mr Reid said: ‘We are concerned that serious conditions are going unchecked, with people getting sick and dying as a result. Ministers should get hold of it now.
Face-to-face GP appointments hit a low of 46.8 per cent in April 2020, the first full month since the first lockdown.
They remained below 50 percent until August of that year and have been above that level ever since.
But they have not returned above 60 per cent in any month so far.
Patients’ union president Lucy Watson said its helpline receives regular calls from ‘disappointed’ and ‘distressed’ patients who cannot see their GPs face-to-face, and several health charities have warned of the pitfalls of remote consultations. has given.
Diabetes UK said it was ‘important that those who were not able to access remote appointments were able to request face-to-face support’. Asthma UK said: ‘Although some people with asthma may prefer phone and video doctor’s appointments as they may be more convenient, most have told us they prefer face-to-face care. Some aspects of asthma care are currently more effective if delivered in person – eg, checking that someone is using their inhaler properly.’
And the Stroke Association said: ‘Some stroke survivors, especially those with speech and communication difficulties such as aphasia, have found online appointments challenging and felt it negatively impacted the care they received. It is important that stroke survivors have choices about how they use services in the future, so that they can receive the individualized support that best suits them. Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors shared the patients’ ‘disappointment’ with primary care.
Many patients are still being consulted on Zoom despite NHS England saying in May that anyone who wants to see face-to-face should have
He insists that GPs offer face-to-face appointments when needed, but admits that some people sometimes felt as if they were working in a call centre, ‘which is not the job’. for which he has signed up. He said the real problem was the chronic shortage of gram panchayats, which limited the total number of appointments available.
Professor Marshall said the move to ‘primarily’ remote consultations was in line with government guidelines, adding: ‘This was necessary for infection control and to keep patients and GP teams as safe as possible. Wherever it is medically appropriate and safe to do so, face-to-face appointments and physical examinations continue.
Dr Richard Voutre, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said patients were seen in person when it was safe and medically appropriate. He said cutting numbers was necessary to protect the public during the pandemic and the need to limit the spread of the coronavirus remained.
‘Patients don’t want to come into surgery with a disease, only want to catch COVID-19 and leave it. For the safety of our patients, we had to limit the number of people coming through our doors.