Dramatic fall in face to face GP appointments

By Carole Dennett Sep 21, 2020

The number of face-to-face GP appointments on the Island more than halved during lockdown. In January Island GPs undertook over 70,000 appointments with 89 per cent of them with the patient present. By July the figures had fallen to below 45,000 with only 66 per cent of them taking place face-to-face. The number of appointments fell from over 62,000 to less than 30,000.

Dr Michele Legg, GP and clinical chair of NHS Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (pictured above), said: “Being able to see our patients face-to-face is an important part of a GP’s job and I am pleased we are still able to see patients in our clinics in person.
“Before lockdown we were seeing an increase in a number of different ways in which we can interact with our patients to ensure their needs are met in a timely manner.

“Many of our practices had started to use the online tool eConsult in which you submit your health question and then the most appropriate member of practice staff can respond to you either via email, text, phone call, video consultation or invite you in for a face-to-face consultation. eConsult is the most-widely used digital triage tool in primary care to enhance patient access and signpost them in a timely way to the right place for their care.

“Not all calls made to primary care require an appointment in person, and virtual consultations can both save time for the patient and also free up the clinician’s time to see those who do need it.

“However with the pandemic, nationally primary care needed to make urgent changes, in order to keep our population safe and the island is no different here.

“We know coronavirus is still circulating in the community and to keep our staff and patients safe we are managing the numbers of patients who we see in our practices to maintain social distancing.”

The figures were released by the Local Democracy Service Shared Data Unit.