Boris Johnson last night said people were ‘entitled’ to see their GP in person – as he warned that thousands would ‘suffer’ unless face-to-face consultations were reinstated.
Speaking to reporters in the US, the Prime Minister said in-person appointments were vital in ensuring life-threatening conditions were picked up early.
And he firmly rejected a warning from the head of the Royal College of GPs that face-to-face appointments may never return to pre-pandemic level.
Before the pandemic, about 80 per cent of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery – but as of July, the figure stood at just 57 per cent.
Boris Johnson last night said people were ‘entitled’ to see their GP in person – as he warned that thousands would ‘suffer’ unless face-to-face consultations were reinstated
A poll for the Daily Mail today shows 85 per cent of people believe they should be able to have a face-to-face consultations if they want one.
It follows the launch of this newspaper’s five-point manifesto, calling for greater access to doctors, and demanding the Government to make good on its manifesto pledge for 6,000 more GPs.
Mr Johnson’s intervention came a day after Britain’s top GP rejected calls to give all patients the right to in-person consultations.
Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told MPs on Tuesday that Covid safety measures and high demand mean it is not possible to offer in-person consultations to people simply because they would ‘like’ one.
A poll for the Daily Mail today shows 85 per cent of people believe they should be able to have a face-to-face consultations if they want one
Asked about Professor Marshall’s comments, Mr Johnson said: ‘People should see their GPs in person if that’s what they need.
‘Some people will be happy with other contact or reassurance, but a lot of people will need a face-to-face appointments and all the reassurance that gives. I want to see GPs seeing the right people at the right time and the right place.’
He added: ‘We are pledged to deliver another 50 million GP appointments. People need the security and confidence that they will be treated in person by a GP who can have proper hands-on understanding of the problem they have got. That is only reasonable.
‘I am absolutely certain that – unless we can deliver that – there will be people sadly whose symptoms are not picked up and who will suffer as a result.’
Last night oncologist Professor Karol Sikora said the value of face-to-face appointments cannot be overstated.
Mr Johnson also firmly rejected a warning from Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, that face-to-face appointments may never return to pre-pandemic level
‘This is really important because cancer starts in organs – that is stage one, and if cancers are found at this stage there is a 90 per cent chance of a cure,’ he said.
‘Once cancers get to stage three, it’s less than 20 per cent so it’s very important to get it at stage one. By not seeing patients face to face earlier, we will see more patients developing stage three cancer.’
Lisa Cameron, chairman of the all-party health group in Westminster, said: ‘The Daily Mail’s campaign is really important and giving a voice to vulnerable patients with nowhere to turn. It’s very important patients get back to seeing GPs face to face, so we can identify issues such as cancer at the earliest opportunity.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘The NHS has been clear GP practices must provide face-to-face appointments, alongside remote consultations, and over half of all appointments in July were face to face.’
Phone chats failed to pick up hospice carer’s cancer
A hospice carer who died from cancer after struggling to arrange a face-to-face GP appointment was ‘failed by the system’, say her grieving daughters.
Gill Dutton, 65, devoted ten years of her life providing end-of-life care to cancer patients at St Giles Hospice in Tamworth, Staffordshire.
But when she developed a persistent cough at the start of the pandemic, the grandmother of three was only offered brief telephone consultations.
Gill Dutton with her daughter Lisa McBlane, 33
Her GP dismissed her cough in her first appointment in April last year, saying that it was probably caused by having had Covid and that it would pass on its own.
Six months later, a severely delayed CT scan revealed that she had developed stage four lung cancer and doctors gave her just three years to live.
Although she responded well to her first two rounds of chemotherapy, she picked up a chest infection in July.
The former caregiver died at home in Tamworth last month, leaving behind her husband, two daughters and a son.
Both of Mrs Dutton’s grief-stricken daughters are today backing the Daily Mail’s campaign, saying they hope to prevent future heartbreak for others.
Her eldest daughter Liz Parker, 35, said: ‘Nothing we can do will bring Mum back but if this campaign helps stop another person going through the same thing, it’s worth it.
‘Mum would do anything for anybody. She really did devote her life to looking after others. So it makes it more painful that she was not looked after as she should have been.’
Mrs Dutton’s youngest daughter, Lisa McBlane, 33, also believes her mother might have survived if she had been treated sooner.
The NHS midwife asked: ‘Why weren’t the signs spotted earlier? I can only think that their [the doctors’] judgment was clouded by the pandemic.’
Both daughters are now planning to write to their GP to demand answers surrounding their mother’s care.
Mrs Parker added: ‘It is fair to say that the system failed her. Had my mum been seen earlier, she might still be here.’