Spotlight on face-to-face GP appointments

Find out latest local statistics and how surgeries are reacting to concerns shared by local people with Healthwatch Reading.
GP consulting with a patient

Just over half of appointments at doctors’ surgeries were held face-to-face in the Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire, according to latest monthly figures from NHS England.

The figures come as local doctors appealed to patients for understanding about current pressures, after we shared your frustrations and stories about GP services in a report in July.

Before Covid, nearly three-quarters of appointments had been face-to-face across Berkshire West, the NHS patch which covers Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire. Figures are not broken down for each borough.

GP appointment figures

Out of a total of 211,226 appointments offered across NHS Berkshire West area:

  • 52% were held face-to-face
  • 42% were phone consultations
  • 51% were with a GP
  • 45% were with other professionals (like a nurse pratitioner or practice pharmacist)
  • 4% were ‘DNAs’ (patient did not attend the appointment)

Source: Appointments in General Practice August 2021, NHS Digital

Messages from local surgeries

  • Emmer Green Surgery put a statement on its website on 17 September saying contrary to news reports that GPs weren’t seeing anybody, it was ‘indeed carrying out a large number of face to face consultations every week and have done so for some time now’. All patients would be offered an initial phone consultation and then doctors would invite in those who needed to be seen in person.
  • The Potteries surgery in Tilehurst said on 24 September almost 900 people a day had been calling the surgery in an ‘unprecedented surge in demand’. This has led to the ‘difficult decision’ to halt new bookings for routine GP appointments for two weeks (until 7th October). ‘This is obviously not the service we want to be providing but we want to assure you we are working hard to reduce the impact of the surge in demand on our patient services.’
  • University of Reading Health Centre has also asked people to be patient, about phone appointment times, which could up to two hours after the booked time slot due to busy workloads. It apologised for any inconvenience.

On 28 September, Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees GP surgeries, circulated a Q&A about ongoing restrictions on doctors' ways of working due to the pandemic. ‘Please be patient. Our health services are under enormous pressure,' it says.

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