Struggle to access face-to-face GP appointments continues due to ‘high demand’

Katherine Johnston (23 June, 2021)

'Practices will assess patients to see if they need a face to face appointments before being booked' says South East London Clinical Commissioning Group

25276Stock image of a doctor

Patients say they are still struggling to get in-person GP appointments in Southwark.

NHS England issued new guidance in May this year telling surgeries that they must try and offer face-to-face consultations in a move away from mostly via telephone or online depending on patients’ preferences and as long as they are not a COVID-19 infection risk.

Despite the announcement, a combination of stretched resources and high demand has seen residents struggling to get booked in.

One 68-year-old reader, who asked not to be named, told the News she had been shielding throughout the pandemic but had been repeatedly unable to be seen for a series of issues including worsening chronic health conditions.

After filling out four ‘e-consult’ forms for the surgery to triage her, she did not hear back for over a week.  Eventually she phoned 111 to try and get an appointment booked in with her GP. The operators were only able to suggest she attended a late night appointment at Dulwich Community Hospital instead.

Nearly two weeks after first filling in the online forms she still had not spoken to a clinician at her local surgery to be assessed let alone have an appointment booked in. She is among several readers to highlight the difficulty of being seen in person.

A South East London Clinical Commissioning Group spokesperson provided the following statement: “GP practices are open and have been providing general practice services for their registered patients throughout the pandemic.

“There were changes to the way patients access GP appointments to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and appointments available as phone, video consultations and on line.

“Practices will assess patients to see if they need a face to face appointments before being booked an appointment with their GP, nurse, pharmacist or another member of the primary care team.

“Practices have been reporting very high demand from patients over the last couple of months.”

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