GPs in Doncaster delivering more face-to-face appointments

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GPs in Doncaster delivered a higher rate of face-to-face appointments last month, but patients were still much less likely to see their doctor than in August last year.

The Royal College of GPs said it does not want to see general practice become "totally, or even mostly" remote after the pandemic, but warned it is still necessary to stop the spread of Covid-19 as the country prepares for a predicted second wave.

NHS Digital data shows patients booked 112,565 appointments with practices in the NHS Doncaster CCG area in August – 65% of which involved a face-to-face meeting.

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This was up slightly from 62% in July, but still well below 88% in the same month last year.

Dr David Crichton, GP and Clinical Chair, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning GroupDr David Crichton, GP and Clinical Chair, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group
Dr David Crichton, GP and Clinical Chair, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group

It was a similar picture across England as a whole, where just over half the appointments made in August were face-to-face – down from 81% a year earlier.

NHS Digital has urged caution that changes in how practices operate during the pandemic may have affected the figures.

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Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs "have done everything they’ve needed to do" to curb the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of patients and staff.

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He added: “We understand that some patients prefer the face-to-face personalised service that they are used to – and that many GPs also prefer this way of consulting.

"However, the challenge of infection control isn’t going away and there has been a rapid rise in the number of people testing positive for Covid.

"When remote consultations have been unsuitable - such as for vaccinations or when a physical examination is required - face to face consultations have been arranged, and will continue to be."

His comments came in response to recent polling by JL Partners for the Daily Mail, which suggests a third of people who needed a face-to-face appointment between April 1 and September 24 were not able to get one.

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The figures, based on 1,004 responses to an online survey, also show a quarter of people were "very concerned" that a video or telephone consultation would not be as thorough as a face-to-face appointment, potentially leading to missed symptoms.

Dr David Crichton, local GP & Clinical Chair, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In Doncaster, we continue to follow national guidance in relation to providing appointments for our patients.

“All patients who contact their practice in Doncaster receive an initial triage of their symptoms or issue and if appropriate, will receive a telephone, online or video consultation to speak direct with a GP, nurse or wider primary care professional.

“There is a myth that GPs and primary care professionals are not seeing people and I would like to take this opportunity to confirm this is simply not true. GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals are as busy as ever and seeing with just as many patients as we did before the Coronavirus pandemic hit.

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“On average, around 20% of patients in Doncaster have a face to face appointment and if it is deemed necessary for a patient to be seen in person, they will be invited in.”

Earlier this month, the NHS sent a letter to all GP practices in England reminding them to ensure patients could access face-to-face appointments if they needed to as the crisis continued.

Chairman of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said it was an "affront" to suggest GPs had failed to do so.

"GPs, like hospital doctors, have worked flat out providing millions of appointments, including face-to-face, throughout the pandemic" he said.

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Overall, around 20.1 million GP appointments of all types took place across England in August, down from 22.4 million in July.

In Doncaster, appointments fell by 13,438 over the period.


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