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Just 1 in 10 patients preferred face-to-face GP during Covid, finds NHS-backed research

Just 1 in 10 patients preferred face-to-face GP appointments during the Covid pandemic, with most requesting telephone consultations instead, according to research carried out on behalf of NHS England.

The Improvement Analytics Unit (IAU) – a partnership between NHS England and think-tank the Health Foundation – looked at data from 146 England GP practices using the askmyGP online consultation system between March 2019 and September 2021, examining over 7.5 million patient-initiated consultation requests.

During the pandemic, GPs suffered a backlash from the media, Government and NHS England over accusations that general practice was closed and GPs were not seeing patients face-to-face.

GP leaders suggested that NHS England needed to take the research into account and allow practices to decide their own way of working.

The research found that:

  • Before the pandemic, 30% of patients requests specified a face-to-face consultation, dropping to less than 4% at the beginning of the pandemic. 
  • But by the end of the study period in September 2021, only 10% of patients requests were for face-to-face GP appointments. 
  • Telephone consultations were the most popular option, making up over half (55%) of patient requests in 2020/21.
  • However, less than 1% of patients preferred a video consultation, according to the data.

IAU head at the Health Foundation Arne Wolters said: ‘Our analysis shows that patients often choose remote over face-to-face consultations and that GP practices can mitigate the risk of digital exclusion via a blended approach.’

He said that ‘traditional routes to accessing and delivering care’ had been ‘offered alongside an online option and, in planning care, practices were able to take account of factors such as patients’ age, frequency of use, clinical needs and preferences’, at the studied practices."

And he added: ‘With patient demand at an all-time high due to the care backlog

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Source: Pulse, 18 March 2022


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