GP face-to-face appointments on rise, but still down from pre-lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:39 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:52 28 September 2020

Dr Edward Turnham, GP at The Humbleyard Practice and N&WCCG chief clinical information officer and clinical advisor for digital strategy. Picture: Supplied by Edward Turnham

Dr Edward Turnham, GP at The Humbleyard Practice and N&WCCG chief clinical information officer and clinical advisor for digital strategy. Picture: Supplied by Edward Turnham


Around four in 10 patients are still not seeing a doctor face-to-face in Norfolk and Waveney, but GPs are working harder than ever to answer patients request says a Norfolk doctor.

NHS Digital figures show that 62.5pc of GP appointments in Norfolk and Waveney were held face to face in July, which is one of the highest in England, and is the first time above 60pc since April.

But, pre-lockdown face to face appointments ranged from 78.5pc to 90pc across Norfolk and Waveney in January, with figures falling when lockdown came into force in March.

The NHS figures showed no CCG area in England has returned to the same levels of face-to-face appointments seen pre-lockdown.

Dr Edward Turnham, GP at The Humbleyard Practice, Cringleford, said the pandemic had escalated GPs expanding the online services they offered. During the pandemic patients were triage over the phone or used the online messaging service as well as video, phone or face to face appointment if necessary.

Dr Turnham, N&WCCG digital advisor, said; “With coronavirus that’s escalated that change towards consultations online. Throughout the crisis practices in Norfolk and Waveney have offered face to face appoints to people who need them. I do not know of any practices that have not offered face to face appointments when its clinically necessary.

More: GP phone appointments surge during lockdown - and they are here to stay
“The patients we deal with most are the most vulnerable. These are the people that are more at risk. Its especially important for us not to bring a patient into the surgery unnecessarily, it also keeps GPs and other practice staff safe.

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“GPs are working harder than ever. From June onwards it has been an incredibly busy time, we are dealing with as many requests from patients as ever.”

He said many times patients did not need a face to face interaction and that many found it more convenient to have an online or phone appointment.

He said the CCG still wanted to deliver the same service to those who could not access online services.

Face to face appointment figures have been on rise since June after falling to 59.4pc in May.

Telephone consultations was the next most used form of contact making up around 35pc of appointments.

An NHS England letter was recently sent to all GPs practices telling them to make sure they were telling patients they could be seen in person.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the letter caused a mixture of bemusement and anger from GPs.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “It’s entirely right that more GP appointments are now available by phone and online, and that is completely consistent with also saying that there still needs to be options of face to face appointments - which these figures confirm are available everywhere.”

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