‘Face-to-face appointments are crucial to patient wellbeing’: Telegraph readers on GP appointments

It was announced today that GPs will be "named and shamed" if they fail to offer sufficient face-to-face appointments, as part of a major NHS drive. The Government is set to unveil a blueprint for doctors that includes an extra £250 million for general practices to boost capacity over the winter.

Practices are set to be told they must "respect preferences" for face-to-face care and should consider using cash to extend opening hours and offer walk-in consultations to allow more patients to see a GP in person.

Readers took to the comments to voice their stance on face-to-face GP appointments, in contrast to video or phone consultations, sharing their own personal GP stories. Read on to see what your fellow readers had to say and share your views in the comments section below.

‘It should be a combination of digital and personal contact’

@Paul Selby:

"I am clinically extremely vulnerable to infection and rely on my local surgery in Bristol.

"Despite being unable to attract new permanent GPs, the service they provide is excellent. I have had to speak to a doctor twice this week, sending photos and using my phone worked absolutely fine. Face-to-face is available should you require it. It should not be one or the other but a combination of digital and personal contact as it is far more convenient to get a phone call rather than have to go to the surgery. It does mean the doctor has a decision to make, but it also relies on us the patient making sure we keep in touch when symptoms are not improving."

‘There are too many hoops to jump through’

@waiting for name:

"There are far too many hoops to jump through, such as an e-consultation and a telephone call before there is a chance of seeing a GP. 

"Not everyone is able to use a computer. There is also the issue of potential delays in diagnosis by the time all the hoops have been jumped through.

"There is also no longer the option of emergency same day appointments, as there was before. My friend from Tenbury Wells was refused an appointment three times, but eventually saw a triage nurse who gave him a laxative. His wife found him dead on the sofa the next day. He just had an obstructed bowel, which, with hands on diagnosis and referral to a hospital, is easily remedied. These cases of negligence are just being swept under the carpet."

‘Face-to-face appointments are crucial to the wellbeing of patients’

@Saradhi Rajan:

"GPs have the extraordinary perk of being able to build a personally owned business with realisable goodwill but entirely subsidised by the state. Part time working, NHS pensions and the reliability of state sponsored salaries are perks not available to most taxpayers and patients. 

"Most people know that face to face GP consultations are crucial to the overall wellbeing of patients. 

"GPs don’t leave the NHS to work at a takeaway – they retire early because they have been very well paid and have gold plated pensions. The answer is not more money for GPs but greater accountability to their patients and paymaster."

‘There have been occasions when I have chosen to have a telephone callback’

@Bill Chubb:

"Perhaps I’ve been luckier than most. I have been with a GP surgery for 20 years and have built a good relationship with my GP and all practice staff. 

"I have a number of serious respiratory conditions, including recently diagnosed lung cancer, and probably consult my GP about six to 10 times each year and have never been unable to make a face-to-face appointment on the day of my call. 

"My GP knows me well, and I have complete confidence in his care. There have been occasions when I have chosen to have a telephone callback which has, for me, always worked very well."

‘Why can’t it be the patient’s choice to decide what appointment they have’

@Ron Symons:

"I challenged my surgery recently about their lack of appointments. I’ve been at this surgery for 20 years. I asked them why it can’t be the patient’s choice to decide whether they have a telephone appointment, or a face to face appointment. I’m sure this method would work for both parties."

‘My doctor explained they are very anxious to get back to seeing patients face-to-face’

@Michal Creamer:

"Many working practices have changed due to Covid, and some benefits have emerged from this. In the case of doctors opting for telephone or video consultation, this has proved to be useful when discussing ongoing treatment or a change in medication for example and should continue as a more productive use of a doctor’s time. For examinations and diagnosis, then face-to-face is essential. 

"I wonder, however, where the truth lies in this matter of returning to normal, as I had occasion to speak to my doctor the other day, and he was at pains to explain that they are very anxious to get back to seeing patients face-to-face, but we’re largely being discouraged from doing so, just yet at least, by NHS England."

‘I don’t believe any amount of money will fix things’

@Clare Coleman:

"It will be interesting to see if this makes any difference at all. The GPs who respond to these boards all seem to be of the opinion that the recent difficulties are caused by the lack of GPs and training new ones is a long term project.

"If our taxes continue to rise to pay for ‘our NHS’, the argument that we are getting some sort of bargain and must therefore expect a rubbish service compared to, for instance, Germany, will no longer hold water. Frankly I don’t believe any amount of money will fix things without a huge amount structural change being made. No political party has the will to do this."

‘Most of us would be content if GP practices returned to pre-pandemic levels of care’

@L Gibson:

"I think that most of us would be content if the GP Practices just returned to pre-pandemic levels of care (certainly not perfect, but much better than now). I don’t understand why GPs are now resisting the request to do this?

"Also many part-time GPs are saying that although they are part-time they are working full-time hours, so why not go full-time and get paid for all those extra hours?"

‘How is the GP going to examine my back and shoulder over the phone?’

@John Simmonds:

"The system is broken. I’ve just spent 45 minutes on hold to my GP practice, third in the queue. I got through when they opened. An hour later, I got hold of a receptionist who told me they had only had three appointments available this morning and they were all gone!

"I had a very polite conversation with the girl and asked how I could be third in line since opening and not get one of the three appointments given out. She couldn’t give me an answer. Apology and resignation was in her tone of voice. She told me they were rushed off their feet (which I believe), but they only had one doctor on duty and she is doing telephone consultations, which I eventually booked, but not until November 4. How is the GP going to examine my back and shoulder over the phone?"

What are your thoughts on GPs increasing capacity over the winter? Let us know in the comments section below

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