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October 2021

Data prove general practice is open for business

Latest figures show that more than 25 million appointments were delivered in general practice in August, the most recent month for which data are available.

The majority of these were delivered face-to-face, with only 9.13 million by phone and less than 100,000 online.

Of these, almost half (46.3%) took place on the same day that they were booked.

The figures prove that tabloid and ministerial claims that general practice is not seeing patients are unfounded.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘These figures show that it’s a misconception that GPs and other members of our team aren’t seeing patients face-to-face. Huge numbers of GP appointments are being made every day, almost half on the same day they are booked, with a higher proportion being made in person in August than July and all in line with infection control measures to keep patients safe. This is against a backdrop of intense workload and workforce pressures in general practice.

‘The narrative that remote consultations are substandard compared with seeing a GP face-to-face is concerning. GPs, nurses, and others working in general practice strive to deliver the same high-quality care whether a consultation is remote or in person. Some patients prefer remote consultations as they can be more convenient and fit around other commitments – and some people are more likely to access care when they need it remotely as opposed to going to a surgery. Effective digital triage can also help ensure patients receive the care most appropriate for their needs.

‘Remote consulting will not always be appropriate. This is why in person appointments are being made – making up almost six in ten consultations in August – and have been throughout the pandemic when they've been necessary. Face-to-face consulting will always be an essential part of general practice, and as we move out of the pandemic, we want to see a blended approach with decisions about how care is delivered being a joint one between GP practices and their patients.’

Practice Nurse 2021;51(9):9