Healthwatch England’s new report looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people access their GP and how this affected people’s experience of care.

Wearing masks

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we use our GP practice. Instead of phoning for an appointment or walking-in to a surgery, access to care has rapidly moved to online bookings, and video and phone consultations.

To understand how remote appointments are working for people we undertook an extensive review of people’s access to GP services, drawing on almost 200,000 people’s experiences that were shared with us and the Healthwatch network between April 2019 and December 2020.

What did people tell us?

  • Communication: Communicating information about changes to services because of COVID-19 has not been a top priority for all GP practices.
  • Booking an appointment: By autumn 2020, people started telling us about long waits when phoning services. People also told us about problems booking appointments because of triage systems and not being sure when their GP or other healthcare professional will call back, leaving people feeling anxious.
  • Appointments not meeting people’s needs: Remote GP appointments haven’t met everyone’s needs. While telephone appointments are convenient for some, others are worried that their health issues will not be accurately diagnosed.
  • Access to regular treatment and medication: People also struggled to get appointments for regular health check-ups, treatments and medication reviews. As a result, they were unable to get the medication and treatment that they need to manage their condition.

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