GP surgeries are still offering too many remote consultations, NHS boss says 


GP surgeries are still offering too many remote consultations and need to strike a better balance for patients, NHS boss says

  • ‘We’re trying to find our way back to the right balance,’ said NHS Digital chief
  • Around 80 per cent of GP appointments were face to face before the pandemic
  • This fell to just 47 per cent in April 2020 – two thirds were in person this April

Family doctors have not struck the right balance between in-person and online appointments, a top NHS official has admitted.

Shera Chok, deputy chief medical officer at NHS Digital, said some patients preferred to see a doctor face to face.

‘Because of the pandemic, everything pivoted around two-and-a-half years ago,’ she told the Cheltenham Science Festival.

‘So we were told to do more remote consultations in 2020 to try and reduce the risk and to keep people safe.

‘We’re trying to find our way back to the right balance. I don’t think we’re there yet.’

Family doctors have not struck the right balance between in-person and online appointments, a top NHS official has admitted (stock pic)

On the move to remote consultations, which typically involve phone and video calls, the east London GP added: ‘Some patients really like remote consultations, that they are typing queries at 10 o’clock at night, and get somebody to call them within a few days. Other patients really don’t like it.’

Around 80 per cent of GP appointments were face to face before the pandemic but this fell to just 47 per cent in April 2020. 

The latest figures show that around two thirds were in-person this April.

Jenny Chong, of the Medway NHS Trust in Kent, said virtual appointments were a form of ‘digital exclusion’ for some people, usually the elderly, who did not use the internet. 

‘I do understand face to face – we lose that kind of context and that is digital exclusion,’ she said.

The Daily Mail has been campaigning for more in-person appointments and NHS England issued guidance last month saying they must be offered to patients 'unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary' (stock pic)

The Daily Mail has been campaigning for more in-person appointments and NHS England issued guidance last month saying they must be offered to patients ‘unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary’ (stock pic)

‘But at least, with a lot of other patients, we can give them the appointments faster, quicker. You don’t have to travel in, there’s less of a carbon footprint.’

The Daily Mail has been campaigning for more in-person appointments and NHS England issued guidance last month saying they must be offered to patients ‘unless there are good clinical reasons to the contrary’.

Professor Martin Marshall of the Royal College of GPs said: ‘In-person consulting is and will remain core to general practice, and the majority of consultations are being delivered in this way.’

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