Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, warned a lack of face-to-face GP appointments is putting 'significant' pressure on A&Es

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, warned a lack of face-to-face GP appointments is putting ‘significant’ pressure on A&Es

A lack of face-to-face GP appointments is putting ‘significant’ pressure on A&Es, the Health Secretary revealed today.

Sajid Javid warned that patients are turning up at emergency rooms because they can’t get to a doctor in person.

He said that patients had’stayed away’ from the NHS and now want to be seen. 

It comes after a top GP last week blamed Britons’ ‘Amazon Prime mentality’ for the increasing number of patients turning up at A&E with symptoms that could be managed by a GP.   

Today, Mr Javid made these comments to MPs on The Commons Health and Social Care Committee, which could further stoke tensions with doctors. 

He said, ‘[A]An alarming number of people are coming to emergency care, when they could have gone to see their GP.

“That is not their fault at all. They have not gone to the NHS because they were asked. Now they want to go to the NHS and they are right to do so.

‘But part of the reason I think people are turning up in A&E perhaps when they don’t need it is because they’re not able to get through to their primary care services in the usual way.’

Asked again if a lack of availability of GP appointments had led to increased pressure on A&E, he said: ‘I think that that general point is correct.’

This comes amid a heated row over a lack of face to face consultation. Mr Javid threatened to name and shame the worst performing surgeries, while unions are considering industrial action over unfair treatment.

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 above shows the percentage of appointments that were face-to-face between September 2002 and September 2003.

Figures show that only six percent of GP appointments are made in person today, compared with more than 80 percent before Covid. 

Although Mr Javid denied setting a target for face to face GP appointments, he indicated that the pre-pandemic percentage was a reasonable range.

Cheshire GP blames NHS pressure for country’s Amazon Prime mentality’, while he slams patients’ ‘inability to wait for any’ 

A prominent GP blamed the surge in demand for emergency NHS services on Britons’ ‘Amazon Prime mentality.

Dr Jonathan Griffiths said an increasing number of patients were turning up at A&E with non-urgent symptoms that could be managed by a GP.

He likened the situation to Amazon’s same-day delivery service, adding that people had ‘high expectations’ and an ‘inability to wait for anything’.

Patients have reported difficulty getting a timely appointment with their doctor during the pandemic. Even though surgeries are back in lockdown,  

Dr. Griffiths, a Winsford, Cheshire GP, made the comments in a blog posting about the current pressures on NHS and emergency departments in particular.

He wrote: ‘We talked about the “Amazon Prime” mentality that we all now have – high expectations and inability to wait for anything.

‘A significant number of people between the ages of 30 and 50 present to the ED complaining of undifferentiated symptoms, which may be better managed with GPs. 

“These individuals don’t want a GP appointment and want everything done in one visit. 

He stated, “By and Large, they have no wrong with them and should not have been there in any way.” 

It comes amid a furious row about a shortage of in-person appointments with GPs, with family doctors threatening industrial actions over the Government’s plan for naming and shameing the worst performers.

In his most recent blog entry on Sunday, titled ‘The Emergency Department’, Dr Griffiths reflected on a chat with an ED consultant.

He stated that the historic number was approximately 80 percent. Now, it’s at 60 percent. For me, it’s never about a number. It is about doing the right things.

“I think it’s about choice. When you have a patient that is interested in being seen face-to-face it’s really important for you to meet that.  

Mr Javid was asked about claims from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) that virtual GP appointments have led to increased demand on emergency departments. 

He added: ‘During the pandemic, it’s understandable why virtual access … became a necessity, for many people there was sadly no alternative because of all the necessary rules.

‘Where we are with that now is that as we move back to normal, those rules that kept people away are no longer there, plus there will be people that stayed away from their GPs, understandably, when they were asked to protect the NHS … as (people) come forward, it is important that ultimately there’s a choice in terms of how they’re seen.

“I believe that increasing access to primary health care will increase demand for emergency and accident care.

But Mr Javid acknowledged that GPs were under ‘huge’ pressure due to a backlog, which was created by people who did not come forward during lockdowns.

He said, “I’m really proud about our GPs up-and-down the country… The last few months GPs stepped up and we couldn’t have been more proud of their efforts.”

But in a subtle warning shot, he added: ‘It’s important patients can be seen as quickly as possible and where they have desire to be seen face-to-face, that choice should be respected.’  

Last month, Mr Javid disclosed that performance data for individual surgeries would be published on a regular basis, including the number and frequency of face-toface appointments.

GPs warned that publishing “league tables” was unfair and demoralizing. Some unions warned it could cause a wave in retirements.

Today, Mr Javid distanced himself from so-called league tables. He told MPs that he never intended to have league tables and that it never came from his Department or the NHS.

Family doctors warn that this move – which was part of the NHS blueprint to improve patient accessibility – would be used in an unintended league table, even though it wasn’t the Government’s intention.  

M. Javid, during his meeting with MPs also admitted that the Government will not meet its target of hiring 6,000 more doctors by 2024.

Asked if the Government was on track, Mr Javid said: “No, I don’t think we are….We’re not on track, I am looking at what more we can do, I want to see that increase but I’m not going to pretend we’re on track when clearly we are not”.

Javid also warned NHS leaders to embrace technology, pointing out that some hospitals still use facsimile machines.  

GP plans to strike over No10’s plan of increasing face-to–face appointments. RESIGNS from British Medical Association

Dr Richard Vautrey will step down as chair of the BMA's GP committee later this month

Dr Richard Vautrey, the chair of BMA’s GP Committee, will step down later in the month

The GP who was leading industrial action against face-to-face appointments quit his position at the doctors’ union last night.

Later this month, Dr Richard Vautrey will resign as chair of BMA’s General Practitioners Committee.

His resignation was due to the fact that ballots were sent to GP surgeries across England asking if they would like to take industrial action.

Dr Vautrey, a Leeds-based GP, led the left-wing union’s revolt against Government plans to force family physicians to see more patients in person.

Moderate doctors, MPs and patient organizations have condemned his stance regarding face-to-face appointments as being ‘tone deaf.

Friday’s Dr Vautrey insists that the BMA will not be stopped by industrial action plans to’reverse the unsustainable workload’ for GPs.

He accused the Government of ‘adding to the fire’ by telling doctors that they should increase the number face-to-face appointments.

According to the latest figures, four in ten GP visits were not being conducted face-toface in England in September. Comparatively, nine out of ten GP appointments were made in person in the same timeframe two years ago.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid last month unveiled a £250million package of measures to get patients more face-to-face appointments, including a controversial proposal to name and shame underperforming surgeries. 

Despite his militant rhetoric of recent weeks, Dr Vautrey’s surprise resignation announcement last evening did not mention the recent row regarding patient access.

He stated that he had decided that the first meeting of the delayed annual session was the best time to appoint a new chair. As we approach the fourth anniversary of our current five year agreement, it is time to begin planning for a replacement contract.

Yesterday, the BMA launched a indicative ballot of GPs in England asking if they are in favor of industrial action in four areas.

These include refusing the ‘naming and shame’ of practices that do not improve face-to-face accessibility.

They will also be asked if they will refuse to comply with rules on ‘pay transparency’, which would mean GPs earning over £150,000 are named.

They will be asked to vote on whether or not they should refuse to supervise medical exemptions that allow people to get vaccinated.

The ballot closes on November 14, and could open the door to the first industrial action of doctors since the strike by junior doctors five years ago.

Patients groups, MPs, and moderate doctors all urged BMA members to back down and reach an agreement with ministers for millions of patients.

This comes as a major study has revealed that only three percent of doctors believe remote consultations are more beneficial for patients than face to face appointments.

Cambridge University researchers concluded that many patients are being affected by the shift towards video and phone consultations.

They claimed that online consultations “increased misdiagnosis risk and barriers to care” and were especially damaging for the elderly and poor.

93% of doctors agreed that remote visits are better than face to face appointments for diagnosing and accurately assessing illness.

In the first study of its kind, experts evaluated the NHS’s ‘rapid move towards telemedicine’ — video or phone appointments — during the pandemic.

Researchers conducted a survey of 1,340 patients with rheumatology and more than 100 consultations with GPs and hospitals between April and July.

One third of patients had inflammatory arthritis, while another third had immune disease Lupus. Many needed regular appointments to check for flare-ups.

93% of doctors stated that telemedicine was less accurate than face-toface consultations.

According to the study, inaccuracies and misdiagnosis were often reported due to a lack of in person examinations.

Nine out of ten doctors also stated that video and phone consultations are less effective than face-to-face meetings for building trusting relationships. Only three percent said they were better overall.