Official figures suggest that 10 million NHS GP appointments still aren’t taking place face-to-face each month, but the actual number could be higher still, with phone consultations being recorded as proper meetings. The Telegraph has the story.
In recent weeks, ministers, including the Prime Minister, have intervened to promise patients access to face-to-face appointments, amid mounting concern about the difficulties some are facing.
Before the pandemic, about 80% of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery. However, the latest monthly figure is just 58%, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a “face-to-face” appointment.
Now, the Telegraph can reveal that even this figure exaggerates the number of consultations which are actually taking place in person.
NHS officials said that because of the way some local systems were set up, some appointments were automatically being logged as face-to-face slots, regardless of how they were actually delivered.
Anne Bedish, a Telegraph reader, viewed her own patient record online, and was surprised to see that all the telephone appointments she had in the past year had been recorded as “face-to-face” consultations.
The 68 year-old, who suffers from a number of health problems and was on the Government’s clinically vulnerable list, had 12 phone appointments in the past year, which she found had been classed as “face-to-face” visits.
When she contacted Glenlyn Medical Practice, in East Molesey, Surrey, to question the miscategorisation, they confirmed that the appointments had been by telephone, but the record went unchanged.
NHS Digital, which publishes national data on GP appointments every month, suggested this pattern could occur far more widely, because of the way data has been recorded.
Officials said: “We do acknowledge that there may be data quality issues with the data and instances where the data may not be a true representation of what may be happening in all practices. …
Officials said this was most likely to happen if appointments had been set up in advance as a “block booking of appointments” and was most likely to affect cases early on in the pandemic.
However, neither of these were the case for Mrs Bedish, whose most recent appointments occurred less than a month ago.
Worth reading in full.