GPs told to offer face-to-face appointments to patients in need

It comes after Matt Hancock announced at the end of July that all future GP appointments in England should be done remotely over the phone or video unless there is a “compelling” clinical reason.

GPs have been warned they face enforcement action if they refuse to offer face-to-face appointments to patients who need them during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to all practices in England, NHS chiefs said it was important the public was aware they could still access in-person consultations with their doctor.

GP practices have now been told they need to communicate clearly with patients that face-to-face consultations are still on offer.

The NHS letter also reminds practices that they face enforcement action if they fail to offer clinically-indicated in-person appointments to patients, as it is considered a breach of their medical contract.

“Local commissioners will investigate any complaint from a patient that they are being refused face-to-face consultations when there is an identified need,” it reads.

Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, urged people not to stay away if they are in need of care.

“The last few months has seen general practice playing a vital role in the fight against coronavirus, adapting quickly to significantly increase the availability of video and phone consultations and offer safe face-to-face care when needed,” she said.

“While many people, particularly those most vulnerable to Covid-19, want the convenience of a consultation over the phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to offer face-to-face appointments.

“I would urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you.”

Patients will still need to call ahead or visit their practice website for an appointment before attending in person.

Last month the Health Foundation charity raised concerns that hundreds of thousands of patients could lose the ability to see their GP face-to-face because their doctors may have to protect themselves from Covid-19.

In the four weeks leading up to 12 April – the first days of the coronavirus lockdown – over 70 per cent of routine GP consultations were delivered remotely, and just 26 per cent face-to-face. This reversed the position over the same period in 2019, when only 25 per cent were done remotely.

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