Health Minister Sajid Javid has urged more GPs to open their doors and see their patients face to face.
Mr Javid told MPs that the government intends to “do a lot more” to ensure this, although he did not provide details of the planned measures.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many general practitioners offer online consultations or a telephone triage service before personal appointments are made.
In a speech in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Dean Russell raised concerns about some primary care practices in his Watford constituency that “still don’t open their doors” to see patients.
He added, “Does he agree with me that we should encourage these general practitioners to open up to help with the residue and see people face to face?”
Mr. Javid replied, “Yes, I agree (Mr. Russell). He’s right to raise that.
“I think everyone can understand why GPs couldn’t provide normal access during the height of the pandemic.
“But we are way beyond that now, life is almost beginning to return to normal, and as this is happening, so should our GPs, and more GPs should offer face-to-face access.
“We want to do a lot more for it.”
Mr Javid went on to “condemn” the abuse that family doctors have faced in recent weeks, saying the Ministry of Health could be contacted as a last resort if vulnerable people have difficulty getting in touch with their surgery.
Conservative MP Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) asked if Mr. Javid could “instruct” family doctors to hold personal appointments.
He said, “Can I just tell the Secretary of State how angry there is in Eastleigh for not getting a personal appointment with their family doctor.
“The foreign minister stood at the mailbox and encouraged the general practitioners to go back to work.
“If necessary and not accepted, will he instruct her to go back to work so we can have personal appointments for my constituents?”
Mr Javid said patients should have a choice, noting that some prefer a virtual appointment.
He added: “It is important that those who want a face-to-face appointment are made available.
“The department is checking what measures can be taken.”
General practitioners and their teams “need more support”
Dr. Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee, said in a statement that life is “absolutely not back to normal.”
He added: “The number of deaths related to Covid and people in hospital continues to rise and there are now only 0.46 GPs per 1,000 patients in England, up from 0.52 in 2015.
“To propose a return to a prepandemic way of working is as impractical as it is impractical for general practitioners.
“You have to treat patients as safely as possible, often in unsuitable rooms and without even remotely sufficient staff.
“They’re also trying to see all of those on the huge waiting lists who haven’t received the care they need in the past 18 months – a backlog that didn’t exist before the pandemic broke out.
“General practitioners and their teams need so much more support and resources from this government to get patients the care they need and the doctors want to give them.”
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