College sets record straight on face to face appointments

Publication date: 28 September 2020

Here is our full response to the patient survey on face to face appointments in today’s Daily Mail.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Throughout the pandemic general practice has remained open and GPs and our teams are working hard to care for both COVID and non-COVID patients.

“GPs are following Government guidance and have done everything they’ve needed to do to minimise the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of patients and frontline health professionals.

“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. We know remote consultations suit some patients better than others, but generally we’ve found that patients have understood the changes and the rationale for them.

“Of course, the success of remote consultations relies heavily on robust technology which is why the College called on the Government at the start of the pandemic for a ‘remote care plan’ – including access to laptops, appropriate VPN connectivity and video consultations software - to ensure every GP practice has the necessary technology to effectively deliver remote services.

“As this survey points out, some patients have chosen not to access GP services during the pandemic due to concerns of overburdening NHS services or fears of contracting the virus. The College has consistently urged patients not to put off seeking GP advice for serious health concerns, such as suspected cancer symptoms. Whilst there was a temporary drop in demand for GP appointments at the peak of the pandemic, GP consultation rates are now back to near-normal levels, and the proportion of GP face to face consultations is significantly increasing.

“The College does not want to see general practice become a totally, or even mostly, remote service post-pandemic, but general practice and the wider NHS are now preparing for a serious second wave of COVID-19 and we must do everything we can to minimise the spread of the virus in order to keep patients safe and save lives.”

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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