Recent data shows that Devon’s GP practices have seen the biggest improvement in access since the start of the covid-19 pandemic and CQC inspectors rate Devon practices highly.
GP practices in Devon are seeing a dramatic increase in access to local services as part of their post-covid recovery.
Data from NHS Digital shows that in January 2023 there were more than 754,000 appointments in general practice in Devon – the highest proportion of appointments per 1000 people in the country.
This means there are now 8% more appointments available locally compared to before the covid-19 pandemic started.
The number of face-to-face appointments has also risen dramatically since the height of the pandemic, when GP practices were required to reduce the risk of infection spreading by increasing their remote consultations through online and phone triage. More than 65% of appointments in general practice in Devon are now face-to-face, in line with the national average.
Dr Steve Harris, a GP in Ivybridge, said: “The impact on general practice since the start of the pandemic has been significant. Practices had to make fundamental changes to the way they worked almost overnight, and both patients and staff have had to adapt to new ways of working. These changes have had to remain in many ways almost three years on.
“For many patients, the convenience of online and phone consultations, reduces the need for more face-to-face appointments, and increases the capacity for GPs to see people with the greatest clinical need.”
Local GP practices are still seeing the negative impacts of people not turning up to booked appointments. More than 3% of people did not turn up for a booked appointment with their practice in Devon in January, meaning 26,000 appointments were wasted. This wastage impacts on GP practice’s abilities to see people who need to be seen the most. Dr Harris added: “If you have an appointment but you can no longer make it, please let your practice know. Demand for general practice is even higher than it was before the pandemic, and these appointments are precious. By cancelling an appointment when you no longer need it, practices can free up more time to see patients with the greatest clinical need.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspects and rates general practice on a range of measures including safety and patient experience. Out of the 120 GP practices in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, 117 are rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.
Dr Harris added: “The latest CQC ratings demonstrate the excellent GP services we have in Devon. With 97% of our practices receiving the highest ratings by the CQC, local people can be confident that they are receiving the very good care.”
Jo Turl, Director of Commissioning at NHS Devon, the organisation responsible for GP services in the area, said: “These figures are a great reflection of our practices in the area. However, we continue to work with all of our local practices to understand where there may be variation, share learning, and support them in ensuring they are optimising their offer to patients.”
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