All GPs must offer face-to-face appointments from Monday

NHS England has announced that all GP practices must offer face-to-face appointments and an in-person reception desk, bringing an end to the mandatory “total triage” system introduced during the pandemic.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 7:47 am

In a letter sent out on Thursday, GPs were told the use of telephone and online consultations can remain where patients benefit from them, but physical appointments must also be available from May 17.

All practice reception desks must now be open to patients, in a Covid-safe manner, so those who do not have easy access to phones or the internet are not disadvantaged when accessing care.

Total triage was a system whereby patients were remotely screened and directed to the most appropriate health service for their problems, and was introduced as a Covid-19 precaution.

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GP appointments were also conducted by telephone, video or online unless it was clinically necessary for a consultation to take place in person.

Currently around half of consultations in general practice are being delivered face to face.

Before the pandemic, some 70 per cent of appointments were face-to-face and 30 per cent were phone, video or online, but this switched to around 30 per cent face-to-face and 70 per cent remote at the height of the crisis.

In the joint letter from Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director for primary care at NHS England and director of primary care Ed Waller, doctors were told patients’ preferences must be respected.

“Patients and clinicians have a choice of consultation mode,” they said.

“Patients’ input into this choice should be sought and practices should respect preferences for face-to-face care unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.