Health Secretary Sajid Javid fires a warning shot at GPs who are still not offering face-to-face appointments as he hints at crackdown
- MPs expressed concerns over GPs still not offering face-to-face appointments
- Sajid Javid said more GPs should now return to offering face-to-face access
- He hinted at potential crackdown as he said he ‘intends to do a lot more about it’
Sajid Javid today fired a warning shot at GPs who are still not offering more face-to-face appointments as he hinted at a potential crackdown.
The Health Secretary said ‘everyone can understand’ why GPs ‘couldn’t provide access in the normal way’ during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he said ‘we are way past that now’ and doctors should be following society in going back to something close to ‘completely normal’ life.
He said that ‘more GPs should be offering face-to-face access’ and ‘we intend to do a lot more about it’.
Sajid Javid today fired a warning shot at GPs who are yet to return to offering more face-to-face appointments
The Health Secretary said ‘everyone can understand’ why GPs ‘couldn’t provide access in the normal way’ during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic but he said ‘we are way past that now’
Virtual appointments were heavily encouraged throughout the Covid crisis in an attempt to keep social mixing low and hospitals virus-free.
But trusts have continued to incentivise the practice, with GPs being offered bonuses to keep in person attendances low.
There are fears that some people, particularly the elderly, are being left behind.
Recent data from NHS Digital showed 57.2 per cent of appointments in July were conducted face-to-face.
That is higher than the low of 46.8 per cent last April, as the first Covid wave swept across the UK, but much lower than the 80 per cent pre-pandemic figure.
The issue was raised with Mr Javid in the House of Commons this afternoon as he set out the Government’s coronavirus winter plan.
Conservative MP Dean Russell highlighted concerns over some GP surgeries in his Watford constituency ‘still not opening their doors’ to see patients.
He asked the Health Secretary: ‘Does he agree with me that we should encourage those GP surgeries to start opening up to help with the backlog and help see people face-to-face?’
Mr Javid replied: ‘Yes, I agree with [Mr Russell]. He’s right to raise this.
‘I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.
The number of GP appointments taking place face-to-face dropped dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic, as virtual appointments were encouraged in an attempt to keep social mixing low and hospitals virus-free
Figures from June show a record 5.45million people are on the NHS waiting list for hospital treatment, with around 6 per cent of those individuals waiting for more than one year
‘But we are way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access. We intend to do a lot more about it.’
The British Medical Association trade union reacted with fury to Mr Javid’s remarks.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA GP committee, said: ‘These comments show how far removed the Secretary of State is from the reality of what is happening in GP practices.’
He added: ‘Life is absolutely not back to normal – the number of Covid related deaths and people in hospital continue to rise and there are now just 0.46 GPs per 1000 patients in England, down from 0.52 in 2015.
‘To suggest a return to a pre-pandemic way of working is as impractical as it is unworkable for GPs.’
Mr Javid had urged GP surgeries earlier this month to return to more face-to-face appointments.
He told The Telegraph: ‘Whilst telephone and remote consultations can be more flexible and convenient, they’re not right for everyone.
‘I fully support the need for surgeries to provide face-to-face appointments alongside telephone and online appointments.’