College response to NHS England letter

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following.

"GP services have been available throughout the pandemic, with GPs and our teams working incredibly hard, transforming the way they deliver care in line with official guidance, in order to keep patients safe and help stop the spread of Covid-19. Face to face appointments have been facilitated where necessary and that more than half of consultations in general practice are being conducted in person is testament to GPs’ dedication to their patients.

"Unfortunately, the timing and tone of the NHS England letter has proved a distraction from what is really important here, and we need the updated Standard Operating Procedure to offer clarity, detail and guidance on how consultations might be delivered moving forward and how normal services can be delivered in a safe and pragmatic way that clearly recognises the pressures that general practices are operating under.

"Practices also need time, and some will need support, to prepare for opening receptions in a way that is safe and complies with social distancing rules. Practices have not yet seen the revised Standard Operating Procedure but are expected to implement it from Monday. There also needs to be some flexibility for practices to decide how to best meet their patients’ needs at a local level.

"However, it is encouraging that our calls for shared decision making between GP and patient on the most appropriate method of consultation seem to have been heard.

"We are still in a pandemic, and the news about rising case numbers of the Covid-19 variant first identified in India, highlights that a sensible and cautious approach to returning to normal in general practice is key. The College’s own report published on Tuesday on the future of remote consultations and digital triage discusses what we would like to see after the need for social distancing ends, and sets out a number of asks of government as we look towards post-pandemic."

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 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.