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GP surgeries in England told to provide face-to-face appointments


Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that telephone and virtual appointments are ‘not for everyone’ and urged GPs to offer face-to-face consultations

Sajid Javid has told GPs to make more personal appointments – as nearly 1,000 surgeries in England failed to meet the needs of their local communities.

The health secretary said that while online and telephone consultations may be useful for some, they are “not for everyone.”

The latest figures show that just over half of appointments in England are now in person, compared to eight in 10 before the pandemic.

Virtual appointments were strongly encouraged during the Covid crisis in an effort to keep social mixing low and hospitals virus-free.

But trusts have continued to encourage the practice, offering GPs bonuses to keep personal attendance low.

It is feared that some people, especially the elderly, will be abandoned.

The bottom line is that NHS England has identified over 900 practices that do not meet basic standards of patient access, with long waiting times and low levels of satisfaction.

The health minister said these operations will receive support to “manage demand, sort demand and direct people to the services they need.”

Leaders of campaign groups and charities have told the government to “get to grips with the situation” and warn that older people unfamiliar with technology will receive “second-class service”.

Javid told The Telegraph: ‘While telephone and remote consultations can be more flexible and convenient, they are not for everyone.

‘I fully support the need for operations to make personal appointments in addition to telephone and online appointments.’

The latest figures from NHS Digital show that 57.2 percent of appointments in July were face-to-face.

This is higher than the low of 46.8 per cent last April when the first wave of Covid swept across the UK, but much lower than the 80 per cent figure before the pandemic.

And in some parts of the country, about 10 percent of patients wait three weeks to see a GP.

How many doctor’s appointments in England are face-to-face?

Some 25.5 million GP appointments took place in July, according to figures from NHS Digital.

But only 14.6 million (57.2 percent) took place in person.

The next most popular form of appointment was a phone call, with 10 million (39.3 percent) taking place this way.

About 158,000 (0.6 percent) were home visits, while 104,705 (0.4 percent) were video appointments.

How the other 624,037 appointments took place has not been recorded.

The share of face-to-face appointments has steadily increased since January, when the figure fell to 52.9 percent during the peak of the second wave.

The percentage fell to 46.8 percent last April, the lowest figure since NHS Digital began recording the data in 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, about eight in ten appointments took place face-to-face.

Mr Javid said: ‘To further improve access for patients, the NHS provides tailored support to over 900 practices, to manage demand, sort demand and direct people to the services they need.

“Tackling the backlogs that have arisen during the pandemic is one of my top priorities and while that is happening the NHS is still there for you and everyone should come forward for help if they need it.”

The practices are supported under the Access to Improvement program, which launched in November and provides dedicated consultants to help operations develop a plan to meet the demands they face.

The NHS said the approach could reduce wait times, improve patient experience and help practices manage their workload.

A spokesperson for NHS England told MailOnline: ‘The NHS provides additional support to teams of GPs where needed to ensure patients can continue to receive the care they need in a timely manner.

‘Every GP practice must be able to make appointments face-to-face, by telephone and online, and continuing to offer all these forms of consultation is part of making primary care as accessible as possible.’

But the call for personal appointments comes after it became known that GPs receive money for making virtual appointments.

Health officials plan to offer Primary Care Networks – which run primary care practices – additional funding for meeting virtual appointment goals.

They will receive part of a £6m fund if they ensure that every five patients per 1,000 (0.5 per cent) is seen virtually until October.

Dennis Reed, the director of the Over-60s campaign group Silver Voices, said the paper’s ministers need to “get a handle” on the situation, as the changes made during that pandemic made it more difficult for many older people to get help. , ‘locked down’. in’.

Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, warned that older people are getting ‘second class service’ because they don’t feel comfortable with the technology for virtual appointments.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned older people have been given 'second class service' because they are not comfortable with virtual appointments

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned older people have been given ‘second class service’ because they are not comfortable with virtual appointments

Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, told the Telegraph: ‘Long wait times for GP appointments are as much a concern for GPs as they are for patients.

‘Patients must have access to high-quality GP care when they need it – and that care must be safe. Due to the chronic shortage of general practitioners, this is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee.’

dr. Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told the paper that the ‘crisis’ in GP practice could be solved by retaining and hiring new staff, which the BMA has long called for.

But ministers have “consistently failed” to solve the problem and many GPs are reaching “breaking points,” he said.

Doctors are working ‘incredibly hard’ to cope with the growing population, increasing demand and using ‘a combination of telephone, online and large numbers of in-person consultations to reach as many patients as possible’.

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