Burnley MP asks for GP surgery support to enable more face-to-face appointments
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During the pandemic most appointments moved online to allow people to stay at home, protect healthcare workers from potential infection, and ensure GPs and others could join the vaccination effort.
As restrictions continue to ease, however, face-to-face appointments have slowly been returning.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Higginbotham said: “One of the things that I get contacted by an increasing number is access to GP appointments with many constituents still struggling to go and see their GP face-to-face.
"We know the impact that will have on early diagnosis and treating other illnesses. So could I ask what steps the department is taking to encourage and support GPs to see patients
face-to-face which will help address many of those other challenges."
In response, the health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs: “It is essential as my honourable friend says that we get GP access back to normal.
"I think we can all understand why during this pandemic GPs have had to also do other jobs, like help us get the vaccines that haven’t been available in the normal way because of social distancing rules, and other reasons.
"But I think gradually we are starting to see things going back towards normal I think the changes we announced yesterday will help with that. But also as the vaccine programme, which will continue for a while as we set out, as that settles down and we get more people dedicated to that we can release GPs from some of those duties. And I think all of that put together will help”.
Commenting afterwards, Mr Higginbotham added: “Our GPs, practice nurses, and other healthcare staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, adapting to virtual appointments early on and rolling-out the largest vaccine programme in our history.
"As we get back to normal I know they want to resume face-to-face appointments in a safe way, so residents are supported with diagnosis of illnesses as well as more chronic problems, and I'm pleased to hear the health secretary has a plan to support them with that."