Patients should socially distance where possible – but if they are ill, they should seek medical advice, says RCGP

Publication date: 28 May 2020

Responding to latest NHS Digital figures that show a decline in non COVID-19 related GP appointments for April 2020 Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "General practice has rapidly transformed the way it works in response to COVID-19. GPs and our teams are working in a number of different ways during the pandemic. We continue to offer routine general practice appointments – remotely where possible - alongside supporting COVID hubs and providing clinical support to NHS 111.

"As reflected in the latest NHS Digital data, we have noticed a reduction in the number of patients making routine appointments since the lockdown started in mid-March. This could be due to a number of reasons including the fact that patients may feel concerned about over-burdening NHS services or contracting COVID-19. However, if anyone is seriously ill or concerned about their health, we’d strongly urge them to contact their GP practice or 111 – and in an emergency situation, call 999. The reality is unmanaged or untreated conditions may not go away and may get worse and this could cause serious consequences

"In line with government advice the public should 'stay alert' and minimise interactions with people outside of their homes as much as possible. In line with this guidance GPs and our teams continue to deliver the vast majority of care remotely. According to figures from our own Research Surveillance Centre, around 70% of consultations are being carried out remotely – via phone or video - with most patients receiving a same day consultation. However, in cases where a patient needs to be seen face to face, such as for a medical examination or vaccination, we will continue to facilitate this in as safe a way as possible.

"As we move into the next steps of the pandemic it's imperative that the NHS is given the attention and resources it has been at the height of COVID-19. General practice must be adequately resourced to deal with the predicted increase in demand as GPs care for patients who may have put off symptoms during the peak of COVID-19, outpatients managing COVID-19 at home, and those suffering from indirect side-effects of the pandemic, such as associated mental health conditions."

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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