FACE-TO-FACE appointments are available in Swindon "for those who need them", a clinical chair said. 

The CCG’s locality clinical lead Dr Amanda Webb said appointment numbers in Swindon increased from 85,942 in August of this year to 98,710 in September – a 14 per cent increase in one month. 

She said during a press conference: “Face-to-face appointments is an area that people seem very concerned about.

“Our practices are most definitely open and seeing people. But that care does sometimes look a little bit different at the moment, and telephone consultations are on offer. And it’s important to note that, that’s usually more convenient for a lot of people, and actually is a very distinct preference. 

“But that is a choice and face-to-face appointments are available for those people who do need them. So, we just want to reassure around that.”
She said remote consultations have been put in place to ensure that patients and staff are safe during the pandemic.

She added: “We need to think about whether a patient needs a face-to-face appointment or wants a face-to-face appointment. 

“So, what I would say is for those patients who need a face-to-face appointment, they can already have one. And so anybody who needs a face-to-face appointment, they should be getting that from that practice.

“68.5 per cent of appointments being face to face is actually really quite a lot. The majority of conditions they can be dealt with safely and effectively over the telephone.

And by doing it over the telephone, it enables us to have greater access because you can have more appointments.

“I think the important thing here is to make sure that patients get the clinically appropriate appointment when they need it. And that is a balance of face-to-face and telephone appointments.”

The NHS is ploughing millions of pounds into a new package of measures aimed at improving access to GPs.

NHS England said the measures, including a £250 million winter access fund, will enable GPs to improve availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care.

Following the announcement, Dr Webb said: “There is now additional support for primary care and for the health system in attempting to improve that access. We’ll be working over the next few weeks to see how we can use that to best effect to support all of our practices and the wider system.

“And within that there is support specifically to upgrade telephone systems. So the concerns that have been flagged recently around patients, finding it difficult to contact their practices on the telephone to support offer is specifically going to address that which we really welcome.”