Virus warning as face-to-face GP appointments rise

More patients are getting face to face GP appointments in NorthumberlandMore patients are getting face to face GP appointments in Northumberland
More patients are getting face to face GP appointments in Northumberland
Family doctors in Northumberland are doing more face-to-face appointments – but patients are still less likely to see their GP than before the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.

NHS Digital data shows patients booked 136,705 appointments with practices in the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group area in August – 52% of which involved a face-to-face meeting.

This was up slightly from the figure of ​49% in July, but still well below 76% in the same month last year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Nationally, just over half of appointments made in August were face-to-face – down from 81% a year earlier.

During the pandemic, surgeries have increase the number of remote appointments – either on-line or by phone – and the Royal College of GPs has warned such measures are still necessary to stop the spread of Covid-19.

It says it does not, however, want to see general practice become "totally, or even mostly" remote after the pandemic.

NHS Digital has urged caution that changes in how practices operate during the pandemic may have affected the figures.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the College said: “GPs have done everything they’ve needed to do to curb the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of patients and staff.

“We understand that some patients prefer the face-to-face personalised service that they are used to – and many GPs also prefer this way of consulting.”

He added: "However, the challenge of infection control isn’t going away and there has been a rapid rise in the number of people testing positive for Covid.

"When remote consultations have been unsuitable - such as for vaccinations or when a physical examination is required - face to face consultations have been arranged, and will continue to be."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A recent poll indicated a quarter of people were "very concerned" that a video or telephone consultation would not be as thorough as a face-to-face appointment - potentially leading to missed symptoms and, in early September, the NHS sent a letter to all GP practices reminding them to ensure patients could access face-to-face appointments.

Chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: "GPs, like hospital doctors, have worked flat out providing millions of appointments, including face-to-face, throughout the pandemic.”