GPs must offer patients face-to-face appointments

NHS England is writing to all GP practices to make sure they are communicating the fact doctors can be seen in person if necessary, as well as virtually.

NHS Digital estimates that half of the 102 million appointments from March to July were by video or phone call, and, while research suggests that nearly two thirds of the public were happy to have a phone or video call with their doctor, NHS England believes that, ahead of winter, the want to ensure people know they can see their GP if needed.

Responding to NHS England’s letter to GP practices about access to GP services, the Royal College of GPs stressed that general practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic, and any suggestion that they have not been doing their jobs properly ‘is an insult to GPs’.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic. GPs have been delivering a predominantly remote service in order to comply with official guidance and help stop the spread of Covid-19. Any implication that they have not been doing their job properly is an insult to GPs and their teams who have worked throughout the pandemic, continued delivering the vast majority of patient care in the NHS, and face an incredibly difficult winter ahead.”

NHS England said it would be reminding GPs they faced enforcement action if they failed to offer face-to-face appointments when necessary on medical grounds, as failure to do so was a breach of their contract.

Marshall added: “Remote consultations will suit some patients better than others, but generally patients have understood the changes and the rationale for them. Where face to face appointments are necessary, they are being facilitated, and we have called on CCGs to work with practices where this is not possible – for example, if all GPs at a practice are at high risk of Covid-19 – to ensure that they can be.”

Event Diary

Following the 2017 Naylor Report into NHS estates, it has been estimated that estate upkeep costs have reached approximately £10bn in annual funding for 2019/2020.

More recently, ERIC (Estates Returns Information Collection) data collection has contained some deeply alarming news about the condition of NHS buildings and equipment.