Face-to-face GP appointments have seen a significant rise, after repeated Government pledges to ensure patients can see a doctor in person.
Official NHS data for October shows 64.4 per cent of GP appointments took place in person, up from 60.7 per cent the month before.
The proportion compares with 80 per cent before the pandemic.
Amid growing public concern, NHS chiefs in May drew up new guidance, which said all patients had the right to see a doctor in person.
But it had little impact on rates of face-to-face appointments, which hovered around 57 per cent for months.
‘Security and confidence’ of in-person appointments
In September, Boris Johnson intervened, warning that thousands of patients would suffer, unless access to face-to-face appointments was improved.
Mr Johnson said people should be able to have “the security and confidence that they will be treated in person by a GP who can have proper hands-on understanding of the problem they have got.”
The new figures show that total numbers of appointments reached a record high, with 30.2 million consultations in October, up from 28.4m the previous month.
In total 19.4m consultations took place face to face – the highest figure since January 2020, when there were 21.7m such slots.
In addition 3.5m vaccinations were delivered by primary care.
‘GPs and their teams are the bedrock of the NHS’
Maria Caulfield, the health minister, said: “GPs and their teams are the bedrock of the NHS and they continue to deliver millions of covid-19 and flu jabs while providing care and advice to those who need it.
“We’re providing targeted support for GP teams to help them continue to improve access – backed by a further £250 million – so it’s promising to see the number of face to face appointments has increased on last month.
“Alongside this, we are continuing to grow the workforce with a record 4,000 new people starting GP training this year and almost 9,000 more clinical staff working in general practice since March 2019.”
Dr Farah Jameel, BMA GP committee chair, said: “These statistics clearly illustrate that GPs and their teams are continuing to do more and more as they strive to look after patients who need them the most.
“What’s not picked up in these statistics though are the reams of other work that GPs and their colleagues do outside of consultations – whether this is following up on referrals, writing letters, assessing test results and managing practices.”