Fears that other diseases such as cancer and heart disease are not being detected by the increase in phone and video consultations have been heightened after a string of recent deaths.

Prior to the pandemic, around 80 percent of GP appointments took place in person. However, this figure dropped to 57% in July 2021, despite normal life being resumed. 

In some regions, just 45 per cent of consultations are face to face – even though most adults are now double jabbed. In September, a senior coroner said that five deaths could have been caused by not visiting a doctor in person. 

The Daily Mail’s push for face-to-face consultations had been supported by families, politicians and charities at that time.

Lisa King, the wife of Peter, died after a GP declined her an in-person appointment.

Arun Ghosh (42), a Liverpool GP Partner, said that virtual consultations cannot replace a ‘hands on the stomach or listening to another’s breathing. 

This low number of appointments is despite NHS guidelines stating that surgeries should offer consultations in person if requested by patients, except when there are good clinical reasons such as Covid symptoms.

Family physicians often claim that they can handle more patients by using Zoom and Skype video calls via Skype.

Leaders of doctors also claim that a long-standing GP shortage has made it difficult to meet everyone face-to-face.

Others believe that the pendulum is swinging too far. They recommend that face-to-face visits be restored to their pre-pandemic level so that serious cases are not missed.

Campaigners argue that it is the elderly and vulnerable who often lose by not being allowed to visit their family physician as they usually would.

Mail is calling for ministers to take action so that face-to face appointments are dramatically improved.

The newspaper also calls for government action to eliminate the postcode lottery and to fulfill its promise to hire 6,000 additional GPs.

Silver Voices campaign group Dennis Reed for over-60s is urging patients to be granted a legal right for ‘face to face GP appointments’.

The petition has been signed by more than 16,000 people. A survey conducted in May among more than 500 seniors found that 71% of them had difficulty getting an appointment in person with a GP.

Reed explained that primary care was no longer a welcome service. You can call your GP to make an appointment, but you will be interviewed by a receptionist.

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK called for more resources to allow GPs to provide in-person consultations.

Gavin Terry of the Alzheimer’s Society said that virtual GP visits cannot be the norm for all people with dementia. Many people have communication problems and may not know their condition.

Alison Cook works with Asthma UK, British Lung Foundation and said most sufferers of asthma prefer face-to–face treatment.

Last night, a spokesperson from the NHS said that GPs must provide both face-to–face and telephone appointments.