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Two-thirds of GPs not ready to return to ‘business as usual’, survey reveals

reception walk-in

Exclusive GP practices are still under too much pandemic pressure to return to business as usual, a Pulse survey has revealed.

NHS England last week issued a letter to practices saying that GP patients must now be offered face-to-face appointments if that is their preference.

It later confirmed to Pulse that practices must give face-to-face appointments to patients who request them unless they are deemed to be an infection risk.

But a UK-wide Pulse survey of 833 GPs conducted days before NHS England issued its guidance found:

  • two-thirds (67%) of GPs were concerned about their practice returning to ‘business as usual’ – i.e. a service comparable to pre-pandemic, including 33% who said they were ‘very concerned’
  • almost four in ten (37%) said they don’t expect their practice’s physical waiting room to ever return to full capacity;
  • 55% said they did not expect in-person appointments to go back to being the default ever or for the foreseeable future;
  • a third (34%) did not expect their practice to go back to open doors for walk-in patients in the forseeable future or ever- although a quarter (25%) said this was ‘already back’ to normal.

Wakefield GP partner Dr Phillip Earnshaw told Pulse returning to ‘business as usual’ was his ‘biggest worry’.

He said: ‘[I’m] not sure we can deliver [the] service that we used to. Things [are] taking longer and staff [are] emotionally burned out.’

GPs responding to the survey said a variety of factors had been an important part of the decision around whether to restore some services to pre-pandemic models.

Seven in ten (70%) cited Covid infection levels being ‘low enough’ as ‘very important’, while many said GP preference (63%), care being stalled or adapted for as long as clinically appropriate (58%) and patient expectations for services to be in place as society opens up (50%) were ‘important’ or ‘very important’.

The survey also revealed that:

  • home visits were already back to ‘business as usual’ for 54% of GPs;
  • non-urgent screenings such as health checks and medication reviews were already back for 51%;
  • and in-person enhanced services were already back for 35%.

It comes amid ongoing pressure from the media around claims that GP practices are closed – most recently a Mail on Sunday campaign to get practices to see patients face-to-face ‘again’.

GPs responding to NHS England’s new guidance on Friday – which said that practices ‘must all ensure they are offering face-to-face appointments’ – branded it ‘tone deaf’ and ‘badly judged’.

LMCs and the BMA have both advised practices that the letter had ‘no contractual force’ and should be regarded as guidance only by practices.


John Graham Munro 18 May, 2021 11:39 am

The lazy oiks at my surgery have decided to close it again tomorrow for ”training purposes”—–over to you Alison Pearson

Patrufini Duffy 18 May, 2021 11:46 am

Your baseline comparison to “normals” and “baselines” is warped. You talk like that is the gold standard. Fake science. That world of packed walk in centres and aggression is nothing to compare too.

David Church 18 May, 2021 11:52 am

Unless NHSE’s Public Health consultant has completely forgotten : GPs have a public health role in preventing the spread of infection!
‘Business as usual’ would mean throngs of patients over-crowding waiting rooms, huddling outside the doors from 7-8 in the morning, gossiping for hours indoors in wet weather with no face-coverings, coughing and sneezing at everybody : this would cause a rapid spread of the most recent Mutation.
It is not the gP surgeries who are not yet ready to return to ‘BAU’ – it is the population!!!
GPs are just the only ones capable of noticing this! NHSE clearly is not.

Patrufini Duffy 18 May, 2021 2:28 pm

You can get back to normal, when you see Hancock mask-free sitting in A&E.

John Ashcroft 18 May, 2021 5:01 pm

Its hardly normal when both you and the patient are wearing masks. While masks have to be worn a telephone consult is often preferable.
I always felt that we didn’t use the telephone enough and dragged patients down unnecessarily and I am happy to be proven right; but after a couple of telephone consults I for one just feel I need to see the patient.

Keith M Laycock 18 May, 2021 7:20 pm

A ‘UK-wide survey? 833 out of a total of 28,000 GPs (2020) with 67% ‘not ready – concerned’ equalling 558…… An extrapolation too far?

Fear mongering? And, though not wanting to be nit-picky, what are ‘Exclusive GP practices’ and what is ‘pandemic pressure’? Pandemic meaning ‘geographical distribution’.

terry sullivan 18 May, 2021 8:55 pm

gps should sayy no to a retun to as it was–now is time to go for change