Milton Keynes patients faced shorter waits for appointments in September than before the pandemic, figures suggest

But 'shorter' is classed as within eight days of being booked

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 1:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 1:38 pm

GP waiting times are improving in Milton Keynes, say health officials.

The move mirrors a national trend, which the Royal College of GPs say indicates remote consultations could be making GP services more accessible.

NHS Digital data shows around 70% of 461,687 GP appointments held in September across the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG area took place within eight days of being booked – up from 65% in September 2019.

At least 41% of consultations took place on the same day they were booked

At least 41% of consultations took place on the same day they were booked, compared to 40% two years before.

Some 72% of appointments took place face-to-face in September – down from 84% during the same month in 2019, but a rise from 70% in August.

Across England, GP practices carried out 28 million appointments in September, around 5 million more than the month before.

The proportion of face-to-face appointments increased from 58% in August to 61% in September, though they were still well below pre-pandemic levels (82%).

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the “prevailing” narrative that remote care is sub-standard is concerning.

He said: “Good, safe and personalised care can be delivered remotely.

“We are seeing a move towards more remote care across the NHS, and many patients prefer it as it can be more convenient and fit around other commitments."

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

The Patients Association said that over the last year, primary care had settled into a pattern of fewer face-to-face appointments, though some patients preferred phone consultations.

Rachel Power, chief executive, said: "Rather than primary care just falling into this way of working, we'd like the NHS to undertake an immediate programme 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 for primary care, said: “I am incredibly grateful for the phenomenal work of GP teams over the last 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.”