Face-to-face GP appointments drop in Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant

THE number of face-to-face GP appointments has dropped across the area, doctors have said.

Saturday, 19th September 2020, 4:30 pm
Telemedicine equipmen Picture: Habibur Rahman

The coronavirus outbreak has led to an increase in virtual consultations as surgeries have tried to reduce footfall to protect patients and staff from Covid-19.

At the start of the year, more than 80 per cent of GP appointments in Portsmouth were face-to-face appointments and latest figures show that these now make up just under half of appointments in the city.

In the Fareham and Gosport CCG area such appointments made up 87.9 per cent of all in January, but this has dropped to 66.3 per cent in July.

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There was also a decrease in the South Eastern Hampshire area – from 73.4 per cent to 44.6 per cent.

Health professionals think the changes are step towards a more digital future. Critics have raised concerns about conditions that could be missed.

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Dr Elizabeth Fellows, NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group's clinical chair and a GP said: ‘We have seen a lot of changes in the way that people access primary care during the coronavirus outbreak, one of which is an increase in the number of people taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience of online appointments and services like eConsult.

‘GPs continue to work to national guidance in place to manage the control of infection, which recommends that GPs and other practice staff look at a range of options to find the best way to support patients.

‘They have worked throughout the pandemic to deliver essential screening and immunisation appointments in person.

‘I'd like to reassure people that face-to-face appointments are available for those that need them, with measures in place to keep people safe from infection during visits to surgeries.’

It comes after a backlash from GPs after suggestions were made that practices in England were not offering face-to-face appointments following a letter that was sent by NHS bosses to make sure patients can access those if they need them.

In a letter to colleagues Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of the Wessex Local Medical Committee, wrote: ‘Earlier this week there was widespread coverage in the media, reporting on the letter that NHS England has written to all practices.

‘The newspaper articles have caused widespread anger and disbelief within the profession, as the assertion that practices are not offering F2F appointments is clearly untrue for the vast majority of practices. I am not aware of any practice in Wessex who is refusing to see patients F2F if this is deemed to be clinically appropriate.

‘I find myself reminding people of the rapid transformation that has taken place in general practice, responding to the ever-changing needs of a nation that is facing a pandemic, with the potential threat to life that has only been seen a couple of times in the last 1,000 years.’

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