Dramatic drop in face-to-face GP appointments

The out-of-ours provider, which is independent of the GP surgeries, has been told to improve.

The out-of-ours provider, which is independent of the GP surgeries, has been told to improve. - Credit: Archant

The number of Cambridgeshire patients seeing GPs face-to-face has dropped dramatically - as doctors increasingly use digital and telephone methods following the coronavirus crisis. 

NHS Digital data showed 75 per cent of appointments in Cambs and Peterborough took place face-to-face in January 2020, with just 19 per cent on the phone and one per cent on video and online. 

By February 2021, the percentage of face-to-face appointments had fallen to 55 per cent, with 39 per cent conducted on the phone – almost double compared to the same month one year before. 

It means that there were 165,444 less face-to-face appointments at the start of this year compared to 2020. 

The biggest increase in telephone appointments was seen in July last year just as England began to leave the first lockdown. 

The number of video and online appointments has remained the same. 

Even though face-to-face appointments are still necessary, health leaders say the change in the nature of consultations will stay. 

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A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said: “We want to thank our fantastic GP practices for continuing to care for patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, both through virtual appointments and by seeing patients face to face where it’s clinically appropriate to do so.

"As we move through the next phases of the Covid-19 response we will work closely with our colleagues in general practice as well as with patients across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to help shape how a range of different appointments will be offered going forward.”  

GP practices adjusted to remote appointments where it was safe to do so while also continuing to offer face-to-face appointments for particular patients in need throughout all three lockdowns.

All practices follow the national NHS England standards of practice issued at the start of the pandemic, which included information about personal protective equipment (PPE), infection prevention and the delivery of appointments.