GP appointments: top Greater Manchester doctor wants to return to seeing patients face-to-face - but not yet

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NHS chief agrees telephone consultations can be ‘inefficient’ and says most of his colleagues want in-person appointments to be the default again.

A Greater Manchester GP and local health chief has said he wants face-to-face appointments to be the ‘default’ again and claims most of his colleagues agree – but not for the time being.

Dr Tom Regan, who is the clinical director of commissioning for NHS Salford CCG, described telephone consultations with family doctors as ‘inefficient’.

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And the doctor, who works as a GP at St Andrews Medical Centre in Eccles, said the majority of his colleagues in the profession would agree with him.

But he told councillors at a scrutiny committee this week that government rules mandate surgeries to triage patients over the phone first due to Covid.

He also warned of a ‘crisis’ in general practice, with doctors leaving the profession and morale at a very low point.

What did Dr Regan say at the scrutiny meeting?

Dr Regan said: “All of my training and all of my experience is based on being a doctor sat in a room with people to look at and examine a patient.

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“The telephone triage aspect of what we have to do meant that we really quickly had to learn how to do telephone consulting and then, when we felt that we needed to see the patient, we often ended up redoing the entire consultation again at the point that the patient came into us.

“It is quite inefficient to do things in that way.”

Face-to-face-GP-appointments | jpi

Dr Regan said he has spoken to one GP who ‘really enjoys’ doing telephone consultations, but the vast majority of his colleagues in primary care do not.

However, he said some cases which are ‘quite minor’ issues can be dealt with over the telephone and patients often prefer this more convenient option.

He also highlighted the risks of Covid transmission which remain in the city.

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But he still wants to see most patients face-to-face when it is safe to do so.

He said: “My personal wish and desire is to go back to a system where face-to-face is the default for all of our consultations.

“It’s difficult to underestimate what you add by being sat in a room with someone.

“My personal view is that I don’t think we are there yet at the moment.

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“I think there needs to be an awareness that for some people, a choice to be cared for in a remote way is potentially helpful for them in terms of their lifestyle and their work life.

“The situation that I hope we’ll get back to is a return to a predominantly face-to-face model with the option – where the patient wishes – to have a remote consultation.”

Warnings of a ‘crisis’ among GPs

Speaking at a health and social care scrutiny panel meeting on Wednesday (3 November), Dr Regan also told councillors of a ‘crisis’ in general practice.

The Eccles GP said four doctors have left his surgery in the last four weeks.

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It comes as demand has doubled over a two year period at his GP practice.

But he said funding cannot fix the problem of people leaving the profession.

He said: “There’s no amount of money that someone could give me to do more than I do at the moment. It’s impossible.

“Funding is only part of the problem. You can give us as much money as you like to employ GPs. There are not GPs sat around to do these roles.

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“The unfortunate reality is that there are not enough GP hours to get through even half the work we’re doing at the moment.”

He added: “Morale across the NHS at the moment is really, really low. We’re all working harder than we ever have before. It’s really, really stressful. We’ve gone from being clapped on doorsteps to being public enemy number one.”

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