Last month saw the highest proportion of GP appointments delivered face to face since before the pandemic, with under one-third carried out remotely.
New data published today by NHS Digital showed that 68% of appointments at GP practices in England were face to face last month, while around 30% were remote consultations.
This is the highest proportion of face-to-face appointments since February 2020, when 80% of appointments were delivered in person.
Face-to-face appointments had fallen to a low of 47% in April 2020, after dropping to 66% the previous month.
The NHS Digital data also revealed that an estimated 29.2 million appointments were delivered by practices in England last month – including almost 859,000 Covid vaccinations completed by practices and PCNs.
This represents an increase from the 26.6 million in the previous month thanks to a drastic rise in Covid vaccinations – which have multiplied by more than 10 from the 76,000 delivered in August.
GPs themselves delivered 13.6 million appointments, representing 48% of the total number carried out by practices in July.
In April, the dataset revealed that GPs in England delivered the highest number of patient consultations since records began in March this year, at 15.1 million.
NHS England director of primary care Dr Ursula Montgomery said: ‘Thanks to the relentless efforts of GP-led teams, tens of millions of people are getting seen by local clinicians across the country, while the highest proportion of face-to-face appointments took place last month since before the pandemic.
‘GP teams also delivered over 858,000 Covid-19 vaccinations last month as the autumn booster rollout started and those eligible for an autumn booster or flu vaccination should continue to come forward to get protected ahead of winter.
NHS Digital clarified to Pulse that Covid vaccinations are not counted within the face-to-face appointment data or data on which staff member completed the appointment.
It comes amid the latest spotlight on GP access, sparked by former health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey’s plans for two-week GP appointment targets and the new publication of practice-level appointment data in a bid to improve access to GP practices.
NHS England had said in August that it was looking to achieve ‘quick wins’ to improve access to GP practices before the end of the financial year.
Meanwhile, a Twitter campaign revealed earlier this month that some GPs are clocking more than 200 patient contacts in a day despite the recommended safe working limit of 25.
The BMA has issued updated safe working guidance suggesting that GP practices move to a ‘waiting list system’ based on clinical need to try and mitigate the current pressures