Thirteen million consultations took place in person in February
In February more than half of all GP consultations took place face to face.
A total of 23.5 million appointments were made during the month, equating to about 1.2 million per weekday. According to primary care minister Jo Churchill, this means that “general practice appointment levels are now close to pre-pandemic numbers”.
A total of 13 million consultations took place in person during the month. This equates to 55.3% of the overall total.
Shortly after the end of the first lockdown in summer 2020, a survey from the Royal College of General Practitioners found that only 11% of GP appointments were taking place face-to-face at surgeries, with a further 3% comprising visits to homes or care homes. The majority of appointments – 61% – were held over the phone.
That survey also found that 88% of practices were set up to offer video or online consultations – compared with just 5% at the start of the coronavirus crisis.
Churchill claimed that, while some of the developments of the last year will persist far beyond the pandemic, the ability to meet with local doctors in person will remain important.
“General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic, and people should continue to access services by phone, online or in-person,” she said. “The way in which people can access general practice services during Covid-19 has changed. Practices are offering more triage and remote consultations, video and online, to see as many patients as possible while protecting staff and patients from avoidable risk of infection. Practices continue to undertake routine and preventative work including vaccinations and immunisations and screening, as well as supporting their more high-risk patients with ongoing care needs.”
The minister added: “NHS England and NHS Improvement have issued guidance on the importance of continuing to offer face-to-face appointments, utilising remote triage, making use of online and telephone consultations where appropriate, whilst considering the needs of those unable to access or engage with digital services. On 7 January 2021 NHS England and NHS Improvement set out further details on the actions to release capacity in general practice as well as priorities for the next quarter. This includes maintaining routine appointments, supporting the clinically extremely vulnerable and those with ‘long’ COVID-19, and continuing to make progress in the backlog of appointments.”
Churchill was speaking in answer to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi.