NHS ‘reminder’ over face-to-face GP appointments

NHS 'reminder' over face-to-face GP appointments

NHS ‘reminder’ over face-to-face GP appointments

The NHS has told GPs they must offer patients face-to-face appointments when needed.

This has sparked an angry response from professional bodies who say the move risks insulting hard-working doctors.

In March, GPs were urged to move to remote consultations where possible in a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The result was a surge in the number of appointments conducted at a distance: in May alone, 48% of GP appointments were carried out over the phone.

Now NHS England has written to all GP practices to ‘remind’ them patients must be offered face-to-face appointments when they need them.

The letter asked practices to ‘ensure they have made clear through communication with the public – whether online or through verbal conversations – that face-to-face appointments continue to be on offer, where clinically appropriate’, NHS England said.

The letter included a ‘communication toolkit’ to support practices in ‘highlighting their availability with the local population’, it added.

NHS England said this ‘reminder’ came as NHS Digital data estimated that half of 102 million GP consultations taking place between March and July were via telephone or video.

NHS England said research suggested nearly two thirds of the public were happy to have a phone or video call with their doctor – but that, ahead of winter, they wanted to make sure people knew they could see their GP if needed.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “GPs have been working incredibly hard to keep their services as accessible as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic, with most offering virtual triage as the first point of contact in order to help keep their workforce and communities safe. This is exactly what the Government has been encouraging them to do.

‘This does not mean practices have stopped face-to-face appointments, and they continue to be offered where safe and necessary. Any inference that in-person consultations were put on hold does a great disservice to the committed GPs who have continued to go to work throughout the pandemic.”

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