Northamptonshire GPs held 200,000 face-to-face appointments in December despite Covid jabs rollout pressure

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NHS figures reveal numbers of doctors seeing patients in person dropped only fractionally as vaccine rollout ramped up

Fewer GP appointments were carried out in Northamptonshire in December, figures show, as health care workers across England focused on the coronavirus booster jab rollout.

GP teams up and down the country were urged to free up capacity to deliver Covid vaccinations after the Government’s booster jab campaign was ramped up in December.

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A letter from the NHS at the time said this 'could include pausing routine and non-urgent care and redeploying staff' to support the rollout.

Figures showed 340,368 GP appointments were held across Northamptonshire during DecemberFigures showed 340,368 GP appointments were held across Northamptonshire during December
Figures showed 340,368 GP appointments were held across Northamptonshire during December

NHS Digital figures show 340,368 GP appointments were held across the NHS Northamptonshire CCG area in December.

That was 18 percent fewer than the month before, but six percent more than the 321,797 which took place in December 2020.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the figures showed GP surgeries were managing to deliver 'consistently high' numbers of appointments under pressures exacerbated by the pandemic.

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He added: "December's figures bring the number of appointments made across England in 2021 to an unprecedented 367 million when taking into account multiple mass vaccination drives that GPs and our teams have led.

"The fact that such huge numbers of appointments have been sustained throughout such a challenging time for the NHS is a testament to the dedication of GPs and our teams."

NHS figures also show 58 percent of consultations held by Northamptonshire GPs in December were face to face – down slightly from 59 percent a month earlier.

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Across England, face-to-face appointments dropped from 63 percent in November to 61 percent in December.

Across England, 25 million GP appointments were held last December – 17 percent fewer than 30.3 million in November, but six percent more than 23.7 million in December 2020 and eight percent higher than in 2019.

An NHS spokeswoman said: "General practice delivered more than 25 million routine appointments – ensuring people received urgent care, support for long-term conditions and cancer care was prioritised – whilst also delivering around half of all booster vaccinations in December, as the NHS answered the Prime Minister’s call to focus all available resource on fighting Omicron."

NHS England asked GPs to shift their focus back to routine care in late January.

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Senior doctors in Northamptonshire last year revealed practice staff and GPs faced an escalating wave of abuse from patients following weeks of public pressure over face-to-face appointments.

Dr Joanne Watt, GP Chair of the county's clinical commissioning group said: "We understand patients may be frustrated and worried and it may not be intentionally directed at our staff.

"But it is still extremely upsetting and demoralising for them.

"I would urge patients to remember that they are speaking to a person with emotions and feelings when they talk to frontline workers. Please be kind and respectful, they are doing their best to help you."