Male health professional seeing a young patient

General practice continuing to provide high quality care amid pandemic

Despite the immense pressures the coronavirus pandemic has placed on general practice, just as it has done every aspect of the health service, GPs have remained open and continued to deliver almost as many routine appointments as the previous year.

Between July through to September, GPs delivered a little over 38.5 million routine appointments – only slightly down on the same period in 2019.

Similarly, according to the Care Quality Commission’s State of Care report, the vast majority of GP practices continue to be rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ for the care they deliver – with 94% across the country meeting this mark of quality.

As such, Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), Professor Martin Marshall, has praised the efforts of those in general practice, reflecting how the statistics stand as a testament to their hard work during Covid-19.

Professor Marshall said: “That the vast majority of GP practices continue to be rated good or outstanding is a remarkable achievement given the intense workload and workforce pressures they have been working under. This is something GPs and their teams across the country should be proud of, and their patients reassured they are receiving good, safe care.

“As ever, it is important that those practices that are struggling are identified and supported to improve. The College is working to support struggling practices through our practice support work and it’s encouraging to see that through this scheme and others, since last year, almost 200 practices have made improvements bringing them into the ‘good’ category.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge the NHS – and general practice has been no exception. GPs and their teams worked incredibly hard from the start of the pandemic to change the way they deliver services in order to keep patients as safe as possible, stop the spread of the virus, and allow staff to continue working, delivering patient care.

“General practice has been open throughout the pandemic, although care is currently being delivered differently to usual, in line with official guidance, with most consultations being delivered remotely. College data shows that routine GP appointments are currently higher than pre-pandemic levels, following a slump around the peak of the pandemic. In the three months from July to September this year, GPs delivered 38.64 million routine appointments – just slightly down on the same period in 2019.

“Where face to face appointments are necessary, they are being facilitated and College data shows that more than 400,000 face to face consultations are being delivered in general practice every day. We understand that some patients prefer to see their GP face to face – and many GPs prefer this as well – but we are in the middle of a pandemic, infection rates are rising, and we must consider infection control when delivering care in order to keep patients and staff safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

“We certainly do not want patients to avoid seeking medical assistance if they are concerned about their health, as we suspect happened around the peak of the pandemic, especially if they have signs or symptoms that could indicate serious conditions, such as cancer. General practice is open for patients with conditions both related and unrelated to Covid-19 – we will continue to make the vast majority of patient contacts in the NHS, alongside delivering the largest flu vaccination programme in NHS history and preparing for what is set to be a very difficult winter.

“Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the College worked hard to address the intense workforce and workload pressures general practice was facing – and the knock-on effects these were having on the wider NHS. These issues have understandably taken a back seat during the crisis, but they are no less important and as we consider how the NHS will function post-pandemic, these need to start being addressed again.”

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