Many of us will have, over the past 18 months or so, been conscious that an old-fashioned appointment to see the doctor was not possible. Many GPs moved to online appointments during the Covid pandemic and a significant number have yet to return to normal face to face practices despite the lessening restrictions during 2021. The fact is that GP practices are now under pressure to open themselves back to face to face appointments.
In October 2021 the NHS announced a £250 million winter access fund with specific instruction that the amount allocated to a practice should be dependent on how many in person appointments a practice had offered. Further pressure is being placed on GPs by a plan for all GP surgeries to publish data in spring 2022 on how many patients they are seeing face to face, and data on waiting times. The government feels this will give NHS bosses clearer information on the effect of non-face to face consultations and appointments. This would appear to still prohibit those who need to seek appropriate medical attention straight away.
The worry is that some critical medical detail that may not be available other than in a face to face meeting might be missed. GP leaders are already warning of a ‘’crippling exodus’’ of family doctors who claim that they are already exhausted by the pandemic, if in person appointments are made mandatory again. The GP profession claims that they are being pilloried by government ministers for perceived inactivity when they say the reality is they have been at the sharp end of the pandemic for 18 months.
The reaction therefore of the GP profession in having to publish figures on in person appointments is that it will expose those who are not complying with instructions to open up surgeries to physical appointments. This also coincides with the Cancer Research UK Campaign #cancerwontwait, which highlights the need for timely diagnosis in the context that every day is critical where cancer is concerned.
As it stands there is no clear guidance on when (or even why) a GP surgery needs to open itself to face to face appointments once again. This will cause anxiety among patients who cannot be reassured with clear information about the standard of care that they should expect. It may be the level of delivery of appropriate care can in some extreme instances lead to a delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis.
If you require advice on a potential delayed diagnosis or what you perceive to be a misdiagnosis, please do call us at 01256 320555 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.