GPs are free from Covid rules: Sajid Javid is to tear up social distancing in surgeries to give thousands more patients face-to-face appointments with their doctor
- Family doctors will be told to tear up Covid rules to see more patients in person
- Move is part of a package from Sajid Javid to tackle the crisis in GP access
- Guidance to include scrapping two-metre social distancing in GP surgeries
Family doctors will be told to tear up Covid rules to allow them to see more patients in person.
The move is part of a package from Health Secretary Sajid Javid to address the crisis in GP access highlighted by the Daily Mail.
To be published in the coming days, it will focus on cutting bureaucracy, giving doctors more time to see patients face to face.
GP surgeries will be given new Covid guidance, including scrapping the two-metre social distancing rule which ended months ago elsewhere.
Onerous ‘enhanced cleaning’ regimes will also be relaxed in the shake-up.
A Whitehall source said the ‘small minority’ of GPs resisting a return to face-to-face appointments would be ‘held to account’.
The decision is a major victory for the Mail’s campaign, Let’s See GPs Face to Face, which has detailed the devastating decline in the number of patients able to see a doctor.
The move is part of a package from Health Secretary Sajid Javid to address the crisis in GP access
Latest figures suggest that fewer than 60 per cent of GP consultations in England are held in person, compared with 80 per cent before the pandemic.
Yesterday it emerged that the situation is likely to be even worse, as official statistics have incorrectly classed telephone consultations as face to face.
Campaigners point out that in-person appointments are vital to pick up on symptoms and conditions that might otherwise be missed. There are also fears that patients may be ignoring potentially dangerous issues because of the access problems.
A Whitehall source last night said the new package would see ministers work with the profession to reverse the decline seen over the past two years.
The source added: ‘GPs are doing a great job under difficult circumstances – we are full of praise for the vast majority who are doing their best for patients.
‘We have been working closely with the NHS on a plan to support GPs and deliver better outcomes for patients. We all want the same outcome and by working together we can achieve it but we will hold the small minority letting the side down to account.’
Mr Javid is said to believe that social distancing in GP surgeries fails to reflect the success of the vaccination programme.
Many sites are still enforcing the two-metre rule, drastically reducing capacity in waiting rooms. Hospitals switched to a one-metre rule last month.
GPs will have their workloads eased through hospitals writing more prescriptions and sickness notes for workers.
Pharmacies could also be asked to do more to help, including delivering extra vaccinations.
The package to be published in the coming days will focus on cutting bureaucracy, giving doctors more time to see patients face to face
Doctors’ representatives have bridled at suggestions they are trying to avoid seeing their patients.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said it was no longer possible to see everyone who would like an in-person consultation.
‘Patients will get used to it,’ he said last month. ‘I don’t think we’ll go back to 80 per cent of consultations at general practices being face to face.’
Sources declined to comment on what action would be taken against GPs who refused to co-operate, but said ministers had a number of ‘levers’. Mr Javid is thought to have considered potential financial sanctions.
The Mail revealed this week that patients face a ‘postcode lottery’ when seeking GP access.
Official figures showed the average number per family doctor had risen 5 per cent to 2,038 over the past six years. But in some areas the figure was nearly 3,000 – a stark contrast to the best-provided districts which have just 1,600 patients per GP.
NHS England has been responsible for social distancing rules in GP surgeries.