College responds to latest NHS Digital waiting list figures

Publication date: 14 May 2020

In response to the latest NHS Digital data that shows waiting lists significantly dropped in March 2020 Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs have seen a drop in patients making appointments for routine consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic and whilst they have understandably focussed on tackling the virus, some hospitals have not been accepting referrals for some conditions. There may also be an element of some operations being cancelled. All of these factors will likely have contributed to the fall in GP referrals during the pandemic, that these figures indicate.

"It's vital for our patients to know that GP practices are still open during the COVID-19 pandemic and that if they have health concerns, they should seek medical care. Figures from our Research Surveillance Centre is showing that routine consultation numbers are now increasing, and we're keen for this trend to continue.

"We know that early diagnosis can significantly improve health outcomes for some conditions, such as cancer, and as patients should continue to take potential symptoms seriously and contact their local GP practice. The reality is that the vast majority of health conditions don't disappear but rather become worse when left untreated.

"Whilst the figures today show a fall in waiting times for referrals, our fear is – and projections have shown – that as more normal service resumes, they will increase dramatically. It is essential that the attention and resources the NHS has been given during the COVID-19 pandemic remains as things begin to get back to normal, and healthcare professionals across the system are given the necessary resources they need to deal with the repercussions of efforts to tackle the virus."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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