Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has admitted that GP appointments ‘have returned to pre-pandemic levels’.
However, he added that patients ‘rightly expect’ to see their GP in person ‘when necessary’.
It comes as NHS England announced last week that GPs are to receive funding to support them to deliver pre-pandemic levels of appointments, including face-to-face-care.
Speaking in the House of Commons last month, Mr Raab said: ‘Although appointment numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels, of course patients and the public rightly expect to see their GP face to face when necessary.’
He also thanked GPs for the ‘heroic job they have done in seeing us through the pandemic’.
The deputy Prime Minister made the comments in response to a question from Conservative MP for High Peak Robert Largan, asking what the Government is doing to ‘get face-to-face GP appointments back as soon as possible’.
Mr Largan said: ‘GPs have done a brilliant job delivering the vaccination programme. They have had to work very long hours in the most challenging circumstances, and now they are having to deal with a huge covid backlog.
‘As a result, many of my constituents have contacted me, frustrated by how difficult it is to see their GP face to face.’
He added: ‘I therefore ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the Government are doing to tackle the covid backlog and get face-to-face GP appointments back as soon as possible.’
Last week, official NHS data revealed that GP practices in England saw five million more patients in August this year compared to the same month last year.
The figures showed that discounting Covid vaccine appointments, GPs saw a 2% rise in the number of appointments compared with pre-pandemic levels – up from an estimated 23.4 million in August 2019 to 23.9 million in August this year.
In June, NHS England published a new target for GP practices to deliver appointments ‘at or above’ pre-pandemic levels for 2021/22.
Meanwhile, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul last month said that doctors ‘will not accept a return the old pre-pandemic NHS‘.