GPs are holding 3.4million fewer face-to-face appointments a month compared with before the pandemic.
The shocking figures reveal the scale of the shift towards consultations held remotely.
There were seven million more appointments every month conducted over the phone in June this year when compared with the same month in 2019, before coronavirus struck.
The Alzheimer’s Society said virtual appointments do not work for people with dementia, while Labour, which analysed the NHS England data, said the shift increased the risk of serious illness being misdiagnosed.
GPs are holding 3.4million fewer face-to-face appointments a month compared with before the pandemic. The shocking figures reveal the scale of the shift towards consultations held remotely (stock image)
In June, 56.3 per cent of GP appointments were face-to-face – only slightly up on the 52.9 per cent in January when England was in lockdown.
The data also shows far fewer home visits are taking place, despite restrictions easing in May to allow up to six people to gather indoors.
In June 2019 there were 18,441,483 appointments conducted face-to-face by GPs in their surgeries, representing 79.7 per cent of the total number of consultations.
The proportion fell after March 2020, when the Covid pandemic took hold and lockdowns were imposed – and the figure is yet to recover 18 months on.
By June this year the number of face-to-face consultations stood at 15,033,172, down 3.4million on two years previously.
At the same time, the number of telephone consultations soared from 3,106,915 in June 2019 to 10,583,202 this year – an increase of almost 7.5million. The number of home visits fell in the same period, from 211,526 to 161,689 – a drop of 49,837.
Labour said the figures could mean the elderly or disabled or vulnerable people are going without the support they need.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘While online and telephone consultations work for some, for others it can mean missed diagnosis of serious illness.
In June, 56.3 per cent of GP appointments were face-to-face – only slightly up on the 52.9 per cent in January when England was in lockdown (stock image)
‘It’s urgent ministers put forward an NHS rescue plan with the resources and staff to bring back face-to-face GP consultations quickly and safely so that everyone who wants one can get one.’
Gavin Terry, head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘People with dementia have been worst hit by the pandemic and the reduction in health and social care services has had a terrible impact on them.
‘Virtual appointments and assessments just don’t work for many of them. It’s crucial face-to-face appointments are available to all – so dementia can be diagnosed as early as possible, helping people remain independent for longer.’
It comes after the Mail revealed a postcode lottery for face-to-face consultations. The area with the worst record was South Sefton in Merseyside, where just 44.8 per cent of appointments are in person.
The Commons Library figures also showed less than half of patients in Dorset see their doctor on the same or next day that they ask to be seen.
GP on email missed my cancer
A cancer sufferer told he had less than a year to live without therapy claims his disease could have been treated much earlier if he had been able to see a GP.
The patient – who gave his name only as Nick – rang Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine show to tell how he was denied a face-to-face appointment in February after developing a mole and rash on his skin.
He was told to email over a photograph – after which he was told by a doctor he just had an infection and was given antibiotics.
But weeks later he had a biopsy and was told at Leicester Royal Infirmary that the mole was cancerous, inoperable and he may have had less than 12 months to live without therapy.
Nick, who is from Northamptonshire, broke down in tears as he told Vine: ‘I’m now having therapy but I’m in terrible pain and it’s just disgraceful – if the doctor had seen me back in February I’m sure they would have been able to operate and remove it.’
Source: Daily Mail UK