Give us back our face-to-face GP appointments, say Norfolk patients
- Credit: PA
As the Prime Minister insists patients must be able to see GPs face-to-face, we assess the situation in Norfolk and ask whether getting in person appointments is an issue.
Boris Johnson has said symptoms may be missed and people will "suffer" if GP appointments are not held face-to-face, saying people "should see their GPs in person if that's what they need."
And people in Norfolk have raised their concerns over not being able to get an appointment with their GPs in person, with some saying they had to wait weeks before getting a phone consultation.
Mark Knight, 73, from Paston, said he feels "abandoned" and finds it difficult explaining things over the phone.
He said: "I just don't get it.
"My sister fell over and she has two black eyes, and had to wait five to six hours before she got to have a telephone conversation with the doctor.
"If you're covered in bruising and cuts, you want to be able to see someone not sit around all day and wait."
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The 73-year-old added that he is receiving physiotherapy sessions over the phone and has heard of others struggling to see their GPs in person.
He said: "They complain about A&E being busy but if you can't see a doctor face-to-face then what's the next thing you're going to do? You're gonna go to A&E.
"Sometimes you have to wait two weeks to get a doctor's appointment.
"If you've had a burglary and you rang the police up, they don't turn around and say I'll be there at the end of the month."
Other readers also shared their frustration, with Margaret Davies saying it was like "drawing blood to even get a telephone appointment."
Elsewhere, Margo Paterson said she rung her practice every day for a week about an infection on her neck but instead had to go to a walk-in centre to be prescribed antibiotics, before getting a phone appointment with her GP.
And Sharon Sickelmore said she waited almost a month for a telephone consultation, raising concern that people may not be calling when they need to as a result.
But some said they have had no issue getting appointments and seeing their GPs in person.
Pallavi Devulapalli, a GP in Downham Market, said GPs prefer to see their patients in person, but that they are struggling with increased workload and fewer resources, and that virtual appointments - created as a result of Covid - helps them "cope" with that.
She said: "Demand has gone up in general practice so GPs are struggling, and also hospital backloads also impact on GP's workloads because if the hospital isn't able to see someone in a timely way, patients are now still being managed by their GPs.
"We're under huge work pressures, we've always seen patients even right through the pandemic. We've seen them face-to-face and that's continued.
"There are some patients in some situations which don't need a face-to-face appointment, it does improve the variety of ways we look after people.
"I don't know of any GP who wouldn't see a patient face-to-face."
Dr Devulapalli added that patients need to understand GPs will see them if needed and to "trust the system."
Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said GPs not seeing patients in person is more of a "perceived issue" due to practicality following the pandemic, which now sees people triaged to the most appropriate person or service to meet the demand.
"As patients we have to look at how we use our general practice services in a different way", he said.
"There isn't that luxury anymore of always seeing the GP. The demand exceeds the time."
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, agreed that GPs currently feel overwhelmed and said patients have contacted them about their struggles to get appointments with their GPs.
She added: "Both things are true and it’s time for patients and GPs to work together to overcome the very really problems they must face together.
"Many patients need to see their GPs face-to-face."
The chief executive said a "partnership approach" can achieved this in the short-term and investment in primary care in the long-term.
NHS advice on appointments and bookings:
People should only visit a GP surgery if they have been told to.
People can contact their GP surgery by visiting their website, using the NHS App or by calling them.
Repeat prescriptions can also be ordered online.
Appointments can be booked, changed or cancelled online, by the phone or in person - by going into the surgery and talking to a receptionist.
The NHS website says before making an appointment to see your GP, consider what other services might be able to help, including going to a pharmacy for advice and treatment for minor conditions, or calling NHS 111 for an urgent medical problem that you're unsure about.
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/gp-appointments-and-bookings