GPs have been told face-to-face appointments must be made available to patients

Patients will still need to call their GP in advance (Photo: Shutterstock)

GP practices in England are being told to ensure that patients can attend a face-to-face appointment when they need to, amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a letter sent to all practices ahead of winter, the NHS stressed the importance of making the public aware that in-person appointments are still available, if appropriate.

In-person appointments still available

NHS England has said practices need to communicate clearly with the public that doctors can still be seen in person, as well as via consultations over the phone or on video calls.

The push comes after an estimated 50 per cent of 102 million appointments from March to July were conducted by video or phone call, according to NHS Digital.

Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, has urged people not to stay away from the doctors if they are indeed of care.

She said, “The last few months has seen general practice playing a vital role in the fight against coronavirus, adapting quickly to significantly increase the availability of video and phone consultations and offer safe face-to-face care when needed.

“While many people, particularly those most vulnerable to Covid-19, want the convenience of a consultation over the phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to offer face-to-face appointments.

“I would urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you.”

Practices face enforcement

In the letter, GP practices were also reminded that they face enforcement action should they fail to offer in-person appointments to patients where they are needed. Failure to provide such a service is considered a breach of their medical contract.

However, while face-to-face appointments are available, patients will still need to call their GP in advance (or visit their practice website, if applicable) to secure an appointment before attending in person.