When the pandemic started in March 2020, GPs converted all first contact with patients to telephone or video appointments. If patients needed a physical examination then face to face appointments were arranged, with the doctor wearing full PPE. Although now a lot of people have had their vaccines, and the rates of coronavirus infection, hospital admission and death are reduced, there is real anxiety about the impact of both known (i.e. the Indian) and unknown variants of the coronavirus. We do not know what degree of protection the vaccines give regarding either transmissibility or the severity of infection. So the Practice is continuing to have our first contact with patients by telephone for assessment and information gathering.
NHSE has recently made an announcement on face to face GP appointments, however there had been no consultation with GPs prior to this, and no time to ensure that the proposed face to face appointments could be organised in a way to ensure that waiting rooms would not become congested, and clinical rooms could be properly cleaned between each patient.
The practice would like to bring back directly bookable face to face appointments, but we have to do this in a responsible way to ensure that we are not inadvertently exposing our patients and our staff to risks of infection. Therefore, we are following the advice of the British Medical Association and the Local Medical Committees to continue our current model of appointments until we have sufficiently good structures in place.