General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic – but we must consider infection control, says RCGP

Publication date: 12 October 2020

The following statement was supplied to the Daily Telegraph ahead of publication of their article Patients struggling to get GP appointments, despite a million fewer people being seen each month on Saturday 10 October. Unfortunately, it was not used in the article.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic, although care may be delivered differently than usual. Following a slump in demand for routine consultations at the peak of Covid-19 - likely a result of patients being reluctant to access our services over concerns about contracting the virus or of overburdening the NHS – over recent months we have seen a sustained increase in patients accessing our services. Research from the College’s Research and Surveillance Centre shows that routine GP consultation rates are now at near-normal levels.

“Whilst many general practice services have been delivered remotely during the pandemic, generally patients have understood that this has been for good reason: to keep patients, GPs and our teams safe, as well as to help stop the spread of the virus. A survey of more than 850 GPs conducted by the College in July found that most GPs viewed remote consultations positively. However, the College does not want to see general practice become a totally, or even mostly, remote service post-pandemic. We know many patients prefer seeing their GP face to face, and many GPs prefer this, as well. But we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We need to consider infection control and limit footfall in GP surgeries – all in line with NHS England’s current guidance.

“Remote care will not always be appropriate for all patients and their needs, and face to face consultation have continued to be facilitated when necessary. We are seeing a rise in GPs delivering face to face care, with an estimated third of a million appointments being delivered face to face by general practices across the country.

“GPs and our teams are gearing up for an exceptionally busy winter – as well as the usual increase in demand for our services, we will also be delivering the largest and most complicated flu vaccination programme ever, and continuing to manage the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the community. It is essential that general practice has the workforce capacity and the necessary resources such as access to an adequate supply of flu vaccine to manage these challenges.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575

Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 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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