Chronic shortage of GPs is the reason patients are facing long waiting times for appointments, says College

The College has responded to comments made by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for England, Sajid Javid, about face to face GP appointments.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs and a GP in East London, said: “GPs and patients are on the same side here and we share their frustrations when they face long waiting times for an appointment or trying to get through to the surgery.

"The real issue here is not about face to face consultations, but the chronic shortage of GPs caused by a decade of under-investment in the family doctor service by successive governments.

"We need the Secretary of State to ensure that the Government urgently delivers on its election manifesto promise of 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 extra members of the wider practice team. We also need initiatives to reduce bureaucratic burdens and prevent more GPs from burning out and leaving the profession

"General practice has been open throughout the pandemic and the move to mainly remote consultations from the start of Covid-19 was in line with government guidelines. It was necessary for infection control and to keep patients – and GP teams – as safe as possible.

"Remote consultations have enabled GPs and their teams to carry on delivering essential care and services when other NHS services had to shut down. Face to face appointments and physical examinations have continued throughout, wherever clinically appropriate and safe to do so.

"Remote care is not substandard, and GPs work incredibly hard to deliver the same high-quality, care for their patients, whether a consultation is remote or face to face.

"We rarely hear about those patients who are very satisfied with being seen remotely by a GP and appreciate the convenience because it means they don’t have to take time off work or arrange childcare. There are some patients who find it easier to discuss more personal details about their health in a remote setting.

"We know that many patients will always prefer to see their doctor face to face, and many GPs prefer this method too as it can be easier to pick up on soft signs which can be useful in making a diagnosis.

"Face to face consulting is at the heart of general practice and will always be an essential part of it. Over half of all GP appointments are now face to face and there is room for both methods post-pandemic, based on shared decision making between the patient and their GP in line with individual health needs and circumstances.

"Despite the easing of restrictions, this pandemic is far from over and we cannot afford to be complacent. The rise in the number of Covid infections means that we must continue to remain cautious, and take precautions to reduce the spread of infection, particularly in health care settings such as GP surgeries where vulnerable patients are being seen on a daily basis."

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
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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.