FACE-TO-FACE GP appointments have dropped by almost 20 per cent in Hampshire since before the pandemic, figures show.

Figures provided by Hampshire, Southampton, and Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) show that fewer patients are seeing a doctor in person, despite an increase in appointments being made.

The CCG has responded to concerns regarding GP surgeries in Basingstoke including that residents are struggling to make an appointment to either see or speak to a doctor.

Read more: GP appointment system in Basingstoke is 'not working' according to councillor

It pointed out that the number of appointments at practises in Hampshire has increased since before the pandemic.

Figures show that in December 2021, 765,483 appointments were made, which was an increase of six per cent from December 2019 when 722,261 appointments were made.

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A total of 29 per cent of people had to wait longer than a week for their appointment in December 2021.

Just over half – 54 per cent – of appointments made in December 2021 were delivered the same day or following day.

Responding to concerns about face-to-face appointments decreasing, the CCG said that all GP practices are retaining some form of Covid-related restrictions in line with national recommendations, and that this is because healthcare settings are routinely attended by the most clinically vulnerable members of society.

It pointed out that doctors have had to manage the demands of rising appointment numbers, the vaccination programme, and temporary changes made to the way online consultation are delivered.

GP surgeries in Hampshire were told in December that, to enable them to support the vaccination programme, they could make some changes.

This included temporarily stopping e-consultations during the evenings and weekends or closing the service entirely.

Information from the CCG said: “Depending on local demand and local vaccination needs, each practice is prioritising care to their population. All critical appointments relating to possible cancer, high risk or vulnerable people living with long-term conditions or urgent and emergency care will be dealt with.”

Patients are also advised that routine appointments could be postponed or cancelled to “free up resource for the vaccination programme”.

The CCG said: “We are still dealing with the pandemic, and so in order to keep you and our staff safe, GP practices continue to make best use of telephone, online and video consultations. Face-to-face appointments are still being given to those who need it.”

Dr Matt Nisbet, GP partner and clinical lead of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight CCG, said: “General practice teams continued to treat patients throughout the pandemic as well as working on the biggest vaccination programme the NHS has ever seen. We are now seeing thousands of people daily with face-to-face appointments as well as continuing to offer patients the choice of face-to-face and remote appointments.”

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