GP services available throughout pandemic, in line with official guidance, says RCGP

Responding to a report by the Patients' Association on access to GP services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following.

“GPs and our teams are working incredibly hard making around 3.3m patient consultations a week. This is similar to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. They are also taking a leading role in the COVID vaccination programme, with 75% of vaccinations delivered in primary care.

"GP services have been available throughout the pandemic, albeit many delivered differently, in accordance with NHS England guidance, to maintain infection control and keep patients and staff safe. Where clinically appropriate, for example when physical examinations have been necessary or for vaccinations, face to face appointments have been facilitated in as safe a way as possible. Currently around half of appointments in general practice are being delivered in person - not including the COVID vaccination programme.

"Consulting remotely has benefits: it can be convenient for patients and can help hard to reach patients access GP services. We know many patients prefer to see their GP face to face and many GPs prefer this way of consulting too. Face to face consulting is an essential part of general practice and post-pandemic it needs to be down to GP practices to be able to decide how they deliver services, based on their knowledge of their patients. Ideally, we want patients to have the choice as to how they want to access GP services based on their health needs and preferences.

"GPs and our teams are at the forefront of helping communities recover from the pandemic. We are caring for patients whose physical or mental health has been directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19, including those with long COVID. We're also supporting the backlog of patients on waiting lists for other healthcare services, including over four million patients currently awaiting non-urgent surgery.

“Before the pandemic, general practice was facing intense workforce and workload pressures. The pandemic has only exacerbated these pressures. We urgently need more GPs and other members of the practice team to manage increasing workload in general practice, so that we can continue to deliver the high-quality care and access to services that our patients need.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
Out of hours: 020 3188 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.