Official figures show that four in ten GP appointments were not being held face to face in England last month despite increasing calls for doctors and patients to see them in person.

NHS Digital’s monthly report found around 11.1million out of 28.5m appointments (39 per cent) throughout September were not in a surgery, with most being done over the phone or online. 

The figures indicate a slight rise in in-person consultations starting in August, but more patients are seeing an alternate member of staff.

Just half (51 per cent) of appointments were with a qualified GP, with the rest carried out by nurses, pharmacy assistants, other medical staff — and even acupuncturists. 

A staggering one-in-12 patients are now waiting more that three weeks to see their GP (8%), up from the one-in-17 average last month (6%)

Figures showed that patients in London and the South East were less likely to be able see their GP in person. Just over half of all appointments in the capital were conducted face-to-face. Only 44% of patients were seen in-person at some Greater Manchester surgeries.

MailOnline today heard from campaign groups that the figures were not a significant increase and that they were not encouraging given all the publicity.

They stated that there was no sign of improvement in October. Most members told them that there had been ‘no change in GPs appointments’.

Royal College of GPs however stated that the figures show ‘how extraordinarily hard GPs (and our teams) work’, juggling care for patients in the local community and relieving pressure on the NHS. 

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, boldly announced a package of measures last week that threatened to name and shame any surgeries that aren’t seeing enough patients. He also announced that a ‘hit team’ would be sent to underperforming physicians to increase face-to-face appointments, and to review the management of the practice. 

But the announcement was met with consternation by GPs who moaned about the initiative, branding it ‘unfair, demoralising and indefensible’. Some unions warned that it could lead to a wave in retirements.

The above maps show the percentage of GP visits that were done face-to–face in September 2019, before the pandemic, and September 2021.

Some four in ten appointments are still not being carried out face-to-face, figures showed. The above graph shows the proportion of appointments that have been face-to-face since September two years ago

Figures showed that four out of ten appointments are not being made face-to-face. The graph below shows the proportion of appointments made face-toface since September 2012, two years ago.

The raft of statistics — published today — showed GPs are still not seeing anywhere near as many patients in person as before the first Covid lockdown.

In September, 17.3million appointments took place face-to-face (61 percent of all appointments).

However, this was far behind September 2019, which was before the pandemic. In September 2019, more than eight out ten appointments were made face-to-face.

MPs spoke in Parliament this week about hearing from dozens constituents who were denied appointments to GPs.

Joy Morrissey, Conservative Joy, told the Commons that her mother-in law’s stroke was not reported to her because she was not seen in person.

MP tells how her stroke was missed by remote appointments 

Beaconsfield MP Joy Morrissey said paying surgeries to see more patients face-to-face or at home would pressure off hospitals during the busy winter period in the NHS

Joy Morrissey, Beaconsfield MP, said that paying hospitals to see more patients in person or at home would increase pressure on hospitals during the busy winter period for the NHS

An MP shared the story of how her mother-in law’s stroke was misdiagnosed due to remote appointments.

Joy Morrissey from Beaconsfield, a Conservative, said this week to the Commons that the delay in providing care had caused ‘terrible harm’.

She stated that her mother-in law now requires 24-hour care due to the dealy.

Speaking in the Commons, she said: ‘I can say I speak from experience. My mother-in law was misdiagnosed with a UTI for days, when she actually had suffered a severe stroke.

“Precious and irreparable time were lost and terrible damage caused by her inability to be seen by a GP.

“For every hundred conditions that can be diagnosed by not visiting a GP safely, there will be one that can’t, one which could prove fatal, and this is not a price worth taking.”

The MP stated that GPs should be offered cash incentives to encourage more patients.

She argued this would also ease pressure on A&E departments and other parts of the NHS. 


The delay in her care caused ‘terrible harm’, the MP from Beaconsfield stated. She is now ‘completely handicapped and requires 24-hour care’

Doctors claim that many people prefer remote appointments.  However, there have been instances where patients in desperate need of a GP were unable to get in-person appointments or their vital signs were missed.

These figures also showed that the proportion of patients who have been waiting over a month for a doctor has increased by 25% in 30 days.

Last month, there were 1.1 million patients who waited so long to get an appointment, compared with 670,000 the previous month.

Patients were able to speak to their doctor in less than half of the appointments. The rest were handled by nurses and other staff members.

According to the RCGP, family doctors are not always the best person to consult for patients.

Figures showed that 14.5million appointments were made by GPs during September, compared to 12.2million in the previous month.

Comparatively, 13.1million were completed by practice staff last September and 10.8million last Month.

Silver Voices’ President Dennis Reed said that the figures were ‘not encouraging’ given the amount of publicity on the issue.

MailOnline was informed by him that it is not a significant increase. At the moment, patients are not heard loud and clear.

“It shows there are still many steps to go. I hope that the Government will not rest on its laurels of having agreed to a package and then forget it even though face-to-face appointments don’t go up anymore.

“We would like to return to more or less the level prior to the pandemic.” The sources have not changed enough to justify this decrease.

He stated that MPs still had mailboxes bulging’ with letters from concerned constituents claiming they couldn’t get an in-person appointment with their GP.

There are not many signs that the situation has improved since October.

He said, “On the current circumstances, there have been one to two little promising things.”

“A few GPs have made it clear that patients will be asked by their phone messages if they prefer a face to face appointment. This is just a small number of cases.

“Most people that contact us say there is no improvement at the moment.”

In the middle of the month, Mr Javid revealed a bold package that would shame doctors who fail to see patients face-to-face.

The initiative will also see £250million funding boost for surgeries that are seeing patients, and ‘hit squads’ and cash penalties for those failing to keep on track.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled bold measures to get more GPs to see patients earlier this month. But his intiative was slammed by doctors who said that it was 'unfair' and indefensible. He is pictured above visiting a surgery in London

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, presented bold measures to increase the number of GPs who see patients earlier in the month. Doctors criticized his initiative as unfair and indefensible. Above, he visits a London hospital. 

In July, the number waiting for routine hospital treatment reached 5.6million. This is the highest figure since 2007. The backlog is expected to grow, according to health officials. This is the highest number since records began in 2007.

An angry feud broke out when the plans were revealed. GPs blasted the plans as unfair, demoralising, and indefensible. Other unions warned they could lead to a wave of retirements that could’sink all the ship’.

After a bitter row about the lack of face to-face appointments, the Royal College of GPs annual conference, Dr Javid was expelled from the conference. Mr Javid didn’t comment on today’s figures. 

Maria Caulfield, Minister for Primary Care, said: “I am incredibly thankful for the phenomenal work that GP teams have done over the past 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.

“Alongside this we are cracking down upon the appalling abuse faced hardworking NHS staff and a public awareness campaign with unions will be developed.

Professor Martin Marshall is the chair of RCGPs. He stated: “Today’s figures emphasize just how hard GPs (and our teams) are working, caring about patients in their communities, and alleviating pressures elsewhere within the NHS. 

“The College has always maintained that post-pandemic care should be provided in person when possible. We would like to see a combination of in-person and remote care delivered in general practices. Patients and clinicians should decide how GP care should be accessed.

‘This is clearly already happening — yet the narrative that remote care is sub-standard prevails and is concerning.  

Remote care is possible for good, safe, and personalized care. It is not limited to general practice. There is a trend towards remote care in the NHS. Many patients prefer it because it can be more convenient and fit around existing commitments. Some patients also find it more comfortable to discuss their health remotely. 

He stated that the Government was yet to hire the additional 6,000 GPs it promised. Instead, their numbers fell by six per cent over the same period. 

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘These latest figures show that general practice is working hard to ensure that patients get the care they need with over 17million face-to-face appointments in September — the highest number since the start of the pandemic — and over 3.5million more than in August.’