Health chiefs have warned GPs that failing to offer appointments in person is a "breach of contract" as concerns grow that Covid-19 is leaving patients across Britain without crucial consultations.
A letter will be sent to every family doctor in England, in which GPs will be told that they must carry out face-to-face appointments or risk being investigated. Following reports of a crippling NHS backlog, patients have been left unsatisfied with a lack of face-to-face contact.
To gain an insight into how Covid-19 has impacted surgeries across Britain, we've heard from Telegraph readers to find out whether they feel that healthcare services have been compromised.
'I was told that over 800 people had made appointments'
"I received a letter from my GP surgery saying I needed a flu vaccine and to phone one of two numbers to arrange on a specific date, the jab being administered in the underground car park of a shopping centre. An email address was also provided if the phone failed.
"I phoned both numbers from my mobile, my wife’s mobile, my home phone and each time it cut out ringing immediately. My email on the subject was returned as not an available service.
"I rang the surgery and was told it was my phone that was the problem. I phoned a second time, a day later and was told that over 800 people had made appointments and that I should keep ringing the appointment number. Just another episode in the merry go round."
'Surgeries are completely closed'
"Is it an insult to imply they haven't been doing their jobs?
"Clearly some GPs have been providing some services, but it's a fact that in many cases, surgeries are completely closed.
"Patients are told to ring 111 if they need to be seen and are then told only zoom is available (a lot of use to someone in their 90s who has no internet access and was told not to allow anyone in the house, so no help to set it up from young relatives).
"We're also told to buy our own blood pressure monitors and test kits for blood samples and email the results. This happened to me."
'My wife is having to manage her own lung disease'
"My wife has a long standing lung disease and as a former Biomedical Scientist, specialising in Microbiology, has largely managed her own condition for many years along with the help of our local GP surgery.
"She has deteriorated and had several chest infections this year, and also developed an ear problem. She has twice received over the phone advice from two different GPs from our practice, who have never met her before.
"After only marginal improvement following the second ground of antibiotics, last Friday she phoned the surgery again, in the hope that this time she would be seen. The triage process told her that a GP would call her back after 2:00 p.m. on Monday and she is still waiting for that phone call.
"Our own daughter is a GP and can’t understand why my wife has not been seen. Surely GPs, who have gone through many years of training to practice, cannot gain job satisfaction from going through a checklist. Stop protecting yourselves and see patients face to face, especially the over 60s."
'How can they examine patients?'
"A letter came today offering a family member an appointment in a hospital Trauma and Orthopaedics Clinic. About time too: we've been waiting for over 6 months for this. Then I noticed it's a telephone consultation.
"How are they going to examine the patient? How are they going to discuss things with the patient, who has learning disability and can't talk?"
'They refused to see me and I'm a cancer patient'
"Our GP service has not seen a patient face to face for months and as a cancer patient they even refused to see me when I had an increase in pain.
"They refused to palpate the area and I phoned Oncology dept and arranged a scan which proved...my primary tumour had grown. Even now our GPs refuse to see patients face to face."
"As a hospital doctor you examine patients to diagnose illness. A telephone call is not anywhere near a substitute and GPs have been slacking off and exposing us to risk.
"To shut patients out is criminal and profiteering. I hope many get medicolegal cases and GMC reports made against them."
'I had an excellent experience'
"It is quite clear that the service provided by the NHS is extremely patchy. I had a medical issue very recently, spoke to my GP on the telephone who called for a blood test. This was carried out and, as a result, I spent a few days in the local hospital for further tests and now await an outpatients' appointment.
"From the outset the care I received could not be faulted. It was timely, thorough the hospital was excellent, the GP followed up to make sure.
"Every health professional I came into contact with were very caring as were the support staff. Excellent experience throughout and I am writing to those concerned to thank them.
"Clearly there are some horror stories out there and unfortunately it is these that will make the news."
'I don't understand their unwillingness'
"Why are GPs so reluctant to see patients face to face? After all, everybody knows the masks work, so all the doctor has to do is wear a mask and get the patient to wear a mask and then there will be no danger of transmission.
"I just don't understand their unwillingness when such an effective prophylactic is available. It's almost as if they are not telling us something."
'Merely highlighted existing issues'
"Getting a face to face appointment before lockdown was a tough enough ask let alone now, in fact, just trying to get through to a GP surgery on the phone could be a test of endurance, so the introduction of Covid has merely heightened the difficulties surrounding seeing a GP in my opinion."
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