Northumberland patients securing GP appointments faster than before Covid

Northumberland GP patients faced shorter waits for appointments in September than before the pandemic, according to new figures.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 11:17 am
New statistics suggest it is becoming easier to book a GP appointment in Northumberland.
New statistics suggest it is becoming easier to book a GP appointment in Northumberland.

It mirrors a national trend, which the Royal College of GPs said indicates remote consultations could be making GP services more accessible.

NHS Digital data shows around 72% of 186,646 GP appointments held in September across the NHS Northumberland CCG area took place within eight days of being booked – up from 67% in September 2019.

At least 41% of consultations took place on the same day they were booked, compared to 43% two years before.

Some 64% of appointments took place face-to-face in September – down from 77% during the same month in 2019, but a rise from 59% in August.

Across England, GP practices carried out 28 million appointments in September, around 5 million more than the month before.

The proportion of face-to-face appointments increased from 58% in August to 61% in September, though they were still well below pre-pandemic levels (82%).

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the “prevailing” narrative that remote care is sub-standard is concerning.

He said: “Good, safe and personalised care can be delivered remotely.

“We are seeing a move towards more remote care across the NHS, and many patients prefer it as it can be more convenient and fit around other commitments."

He added the data reflects how remote consultations have the potential to make GP services more accessible, with more patients seen on the same day nationally in September, compared to 2019.

The Patients Association said that over the last year, primary care had settled into a pattern of fewer face-to-face appointments, though some patients preferred phone consultations.

Rachel Power, chief executive, said: "Rather than primary care just falling into this way of working, we'd like the NHS to undertake an immediate programme of engagement with patients across the country to understand what patients' priorities are.”

NHS England said the figures showed GPs were working hard to ensure patients got the care they need.

Maria Caulfield, minister for primary care, said: “I know how important it is for patients to be able to see their GP in the way they choose and so it’s promising to see the number of face-to-face appointments is increasing.”