17% of GPs are ‘unable to keep up with demand for patients face-to-face appointments


One in six GPs haven't given patients face-to-face appointments as many medics claim they can't keep up with demand, a new poll finds (stock photo)

One in six GPs have failed to give patients face-to-face appointments as many medics claim they cannot keep up with demand, a new poll finds.

Doctors implemented a virtual appointment protocol during the first covid lockdown, meaning less than half of patients were examined in person. Before the pandemic, about 80 percent of appointments were face-to-face.

NHS England has reversed its ‘total triage’ policy, which encouraged doctors to treat more cases remotely, in 2021, after all patients have the right to opt for an in-person appointment with their GP.

But despite government intervention, only 69 per cent of appointments across England are face-to-face – a significant drop from pre-pandemic levels. The Telegraph reported. In some areas, less than 20 percent of cases are handled in person.

Patient groups have called the numbers “totally unacceptable,” with doctors claiming they can’t meet appointment demands and don’t have “enough capacity” to treat everyone in the office.

One in six GPs have failed to give patients face-to-face appointments as many medics claim they can’t keep up with demand, a new poll finds (stock photo)

NHS guidelines state GPs should respect a patient's preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to prove otherwise (stock photo)

NHS guidelines state GPs should respect a patient’s preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to prove otherwise (stock photo)

Of the 29.3 million practice appointments conducted in June of this year, only 69 percent took place face-to-face, the study found. In June 2019 – before the pandemic – 81 percent of visits were in person.

A survey of nearly 900 GPs conducted by Pulse Magazine found that 58 percent of GPs offer in-person appointments to patients who request them.

Most claim wait times are comparable to those opting for remote appointments. But 22 percent of doctors have claimed that patients who insist on an in-person appointment have to wait longer to see their doctor.

In addition, 16 percent of GPs have claimed they cannot give personal appointments to every patient who requests it.

The poll found that 77 percent of practices have reported an increase in demand for in-person appointments over the past year.

A doctor who took part in the study claimed that their operation “cannot keep up with demand.” Another claimed they will try to “persuade” patients to accept a phone or virtual appointment if they deemed it “more appropriate”.

“Not all requests are appropriate, and some could be targeted more efficiently, or advised on infection risks and better management,” claimed one GP.

Another argued that their practice ‘does not deliver on-call face-to-face’ and argued that the triage GP has ‘the last word’.

One respondent added that the surgery decides whether an in-person appointment or a remote appointment is made, so giving patients a choice ‘makes no difference’.

But NHS guidelines state that GPs should ‘respect a patient’s preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to prove otherwise’.

A doctor who took part in the study claimed that their operation

A doctor who took part in the study claimed that their operation “cannot keep up with demand.” Another claimed they will try to ‘convince’ patients to accept a phone or virtual appointment if they feel it is ‘more appropriate’ (stock photo)

Physicians seemingly favoring virtual appointments have claimed that “safe, timely and appropriate care” can be delivered both face-to-face and remotely.

“We know that some patients prefer to see their GP in person, and many GPs prefer this way of consulting, but some patients find remote care an easy and effective way to access GP services,” said Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair from the Royal College of GPs. , said.

Dr. However, John Sharvill argued that he “disapproves” telephone or video appointments because he could not be sure to treat certain cases without physically seeing the patient.

The medic, who was previously a GP partner in Kent but now works in the emergency room, also argued that with the time he spends setting up a video consultation, ‘I could have seen the person’.

NHS England told MailOnline today that nearly seven in 10 appointments are delivered face-to-face and all GPs are offering mist ‘both face-to-face, telephone and online appointments’.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘GP teams are already delivering half a million more appointments a week compared to pre-pandemic levels, and the primary care recovery plan with record investment looks set to further improve access by pharmacists prescribing common conditions for the first time and providing more options for patients to refer themselves, while the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan commits to halving the number of GP training places.’