Telephone consultations with GPs are being incorrectly classed as “face-to-face” appointments in official statistics, NHS chiefs have admitted, following an investigation by The Telegraph.
In recent weeks, ministers, including the Prime Minister, have intervened to promise patients access to face-to-face appointments, amid mounting concern about the difficulties some are facing.
Before the pandemic, about 80 per cent of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery. However, the latest monthly figure is just 58 per cent, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a “face-to-face” appointment.
Now, The Telegraph can reveal that even this figure exaggerates the number of consultations which are actually taking place in person.
NHS officials said that because of the way some local systems were set up, some appointments were automatically being logged as face-to-face slots, regardless of how they were actually delivered.
Mix-up impact on vulnerable patients
Anne Bedish, a Telegraph reader, viewed her own patient record online, and was surprised to see that all the telephone appointments she had in the past year had been recorded as “face-to-face” consultations.
The 68-year-old, who suffers from a number of health problems and was on the Government’s clinically vulnerable list, had 12 phone appointments in the past year, which she found had been classed as “face-to-face” visits.
When she contacted Glenlyn Medical Practice, in East Molesey, Surrey, to question the miscategorisation, they confirmed that the appointments had been by telephone, but the record went unchanged.
NHS Digital, which publishes national data on GP appointments every month, suggested this pattern could occur far more widely, because of the way data has been recorded.