Medical patients in south-east London are facing shorter waiting times

GP patients in south-east London faced shorter waiting times for appointments in September than before the pandemic, figures suggest.

This reflects a national trend that the Royal College of GPs said indicates that remote consultations could make GP services more accessible.

NHS Digital data show that around 78% of 752,114 GP agreements held in September across the NHS South East London CCG area took place within eight days of booking – up from 72% in September 2019 .

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

About 51% of hiring took place face-to-face in September – down from 72% in the same month in 2019, but up from 47% in August.

Across the UK, GPs completed 28 million appointments in September, around 5 million more than the month before.

The share of face-to-face employment rose from 58% in August to 61% in September, although 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 understandard is worrying.

He said: “Good, safe and personal care can be provided remotely.

“We are seeing a move towards more remote care across the NHS, and many patients prefer it as it may be more convenient and fit in with other commitments.”

He added that 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 primary care over the past year had settled into a pattern of fewer face-to-face appointments, although some patients preferred telephone consultations.

Rachel Power, CEO, said: “Instead of primary care just falling into this way of working, we want the NHS to implement an immediate program of engagement with patients across the country to understand what patients’ priorities are. . ”

NHS England said the figures show that GPs are working hard to ensure patients receive the care they need.

Maria Caulfield, Minister of Primary Care, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the phenomenal work of GP teams over the last 18 challenging months.

“I know how important it is for patients to be able to see their GP in the way they choose, and therefore it is promising to see the number of face-to-face appointments increase.

“We have put together a plan to provide targeted support to GP teams to help them continue to improve access – backed by an additional £ 250 million.”

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