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Face-to-face GP appointments reach highest level since February 2020

Face-to-face GP appointments reach highest level since February 2020

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.

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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

And NHS England’s board has issued a stark warning that demand for GP appointments has ‘never been greater’ and is ‘outstripping supply’.  


          

READERS' COMMENTS [8]

Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

nasir hannan 27 October, 2022 12:04 pm

Are the statistics also available for secondary care and mental health as well please? We really do need whole system thinking on this.

Brian Mcgregor 27 October, 2022 12:05 pm

Will you PLEASE stop using a percentage as a measure of face to face appointments – pre pandemic 80% of 20 million appointments were delivered F2F – i.e. 16 million, in August it was 65% of 24.6 million – i.e. 15,990,000
Using a percentage continues to imply there are less appointments being delivered, when the reality is that we are delivering the SAME number of F2F with almost 1000 fewer GP WTEs, and on top of that an ADDITIONAL 4 million virtual apointments. There are still only so many hours in the day, and as such we are being as productive as we can be.

Try to support and back up the profession, this use of % just feeds into the demoralising, GP-bashing agenda driven by the right wing printed media – it’s wrong, inappropriate, and misleading.

Philip Cox 27 October, 2022 12:17 pm

I imagine another issue is the huge number of e mails that now need looking at.

Patrufini Duffy 27 October, 2022 2:44 pm

And?

Of which, 60% were a waste of time, and really had no impact on mortality or morbidity. But solved partial loneliness, defensive medicine and avoiding a nannying complaint.

John Charlton 27 October, 2022 5:22 pm

I triage dermatology referrals for a big city…and about half of the referrals have been from a telephone consultation only. And half are from none GP team members.

Dr Doctor 28 October, 2022 1:09 am

Hi John Charlton,
More than half of the post we, Primary Care Clinicians receive from the secondary or community care services comes from non-consultants! It’s called team work and who ever does the work, it all counts!

Dr Doctor 28 October, 2022 1:10 am

And more than half of those secondary care or dermatology consultations are virtual!

David Burton 28 October, 2022 5:37 pm

John Charlton. Interesting point. So GPs are now performing face to face consultations at a rate not seen since pre-pandemic. You report that they are also reviewing patients remotely in such significant numbers that about half of your triaged referrals seem to have been assessed remotely. I wonder how the GPs in your big city managed to find all of that extra time to deal with these extra remote consultations as well as the face to face interactions? Maybe it is by using ‘none GP team members’?