People spend less time waiting to see a doctor in Blackburn

PATIENTS faced shorter waits for appointments in September than before the pandemic, new figures suggest.

NHS Digital data shows that around 76% of the 88,278 GP appointments held in September in the NHS Blackburn area with Darwen CCG took place within eight days of booking, up from 72% in September 2019.

At least 50% of consultations took place the same day they were booked, compared to 42% two years earlier.

Some 56% of dates were face-to-face in September – up from 91% in the same month in 2019, but an increase from 49% in August.

Across England, GP surgeries made 28 million appointments in September, around 5 million more than the previous month.

The proportion of face-to-face dates fell from 58 percent in August to 61 percent in September, although it is still well below pre-pandemic levels (82 percent).

Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, said the “dominant” narrative that remote care is substandard is concerning.

He said: “Good, safe and personalized care can be provided from a distance.

“We are seeing a shift towards more remote care in the NHS, and many patients prefer it because it can be more convenient and accommodate other commitments.”

He added that the data reflects how remote consultations have the potential to make GP services more accessible, with more same-day patients seen nationwide in September, compared to 2019.

The Patients’ Association said that over the past year, primary care has moved into a trend of fewer face-to-face appointments, although some patients preferred telephone consultations.

Rachel Power, chief executive, said: “Rather than primary care falling into this way of working, we would like the NHS to undertake an immediate program of engagement with patients across the country to understand what patients’ priorities are . ”

NHS England said the figures show GPs are working hard to ensure patients get the care they need.

Maria Caulfield, Minister of Primary Care, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the phenomenal work of the GP teams over the past 18 difficult months.

“I know how important it is for patients to be able to see their GP the way they want and so it is promising to see the number of face-to-face appointments increase.

“We have set out a plan to provide targeted support to GP teams to help them continue to improve access – backed by an additional £ 250million.”

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