Northamptonshire GP patients face shorter waits for appointments than before pandemic, figures reveal

More than 70 percent of appointments in September took place within eight days of being booked

By Federica Bedendo, Data Reporter
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 9:17 am

Northamptonshire GP patients faced shorter waits for appointments in September than before the pandemic, figures suggest.

It mirrors a national trend, which the Royal College of GPs said indicates remote consultations could be making GP services more accessible.

NHS Digital data shows around 77 percent of 376,144 GP appointments held in September across the NHS Northamptonshire CCG area took place within eight days of being booked – up from 70 percent in September 2019.

Patients have had shorter waiting times for GP appointments.

At least 49 percent of consultations took place on the same day they were booked, compared to 43 percent two years before.

Some 56 percent of appointments took place face-to-face in September – down from 81 percent during the same month in 2019, but a rise from 54 percent in August.

Across England, GP practices carried out 28 million appointments in September, around five million more than the month before.

The proportion of face-to-face appointments increased from 58 percent in August to 61 percent in September, though they were still well below pre-pandemic levels (82 percent).

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the “prevailing” narrative that remote care is sub-standard is concerning.

He said: “Good, safe and personalised care can be delivered remotely.

“We are seeing a move towards more remote care across the NHS, and many patients prefer it as it can be more convenient and fit around other commitments."

He added the data reflects how remote consultations have the potential to make GP services more accessible, with more patients seen on the same day nationally in September, compared to 2019.

The Patients Association said that over the last year, primary care had settled into a pattern of fewer face-to-face appointments, though some patients preferred phone consultations.

Rachel Power, chief executive, said: "Rather than primary care just falling into this way of working, we'd like the NHS to undertake an immediate programme of engagement with patients across the country to understand what patients' priorities are.”

NHS England said the figures show GPs are working hard to ensure patients get the care they need.

Maria Caulfield, minister for primary care, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the phenomenal work of GP teams over the last 18 challenging months.

"I know how important it is for patients to be able to see their GP in the way they choose and so it’s promising to see the number of face-to-face appointments is increasing.

“We have set out a plan to provide targeted support for GP teams to help them continue to improve access – backed by a further £250 million.”