GPs are holding 3.4 million fewer face to face appointments a month compared with before the pandemic.
The surprising numbers reveal the scale of the shift towards consultations held remotely.
There were seven million more appointments every month conducted over the phone in June this year when compared with the same month in 2019 before coronavirus struck.
The Alzheimer’s Society said virtual appointments don’t work for people with dementia, while Labour, which examined the NHS England data, said the shift raised the risk of serious illness being misdiagnosed.
In June, 56.3 per cent of GP appointments were face to face, only slightly up on the 52.9 per cent in January when England was in lockdown.
The data also shows far fewer home visits are taking place, despite restrictions easing in May to allow up to six people to gather indoors.
In June 2019 there were 18,441,483 appointments conducted face to face by GPs in their surgeries, representing 79.7 per cent of the total number of consultations.
The proportion fell after March 2020, when the COVID pandemic took hold and lockdowns were imposed, and the figure is yet to recover 18 months on.
By June this year, the number of face to face consultations stood at 15,033,172, down 3.4 million on two years before.
At the same time, the number of telephone consultations rose from 3,106,915 in June 2019 to 10,583,202 this year, an increase of approximately 7.5 million. The number of home visits fell in the same period, from 211,526 to 161,689, a drop of 49,837.
Labour said the figures could mean that elderly, disabled or vulnerable people are going without the help they require.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesperson, said that while online and telephone consultations work for some, for others it can mean a missed diagnosis for serious illness and that it was important ministers put forth an NHS rescue plan with the resources and staff to bring back face to face GP consultations quickly and safely so that everyone who wants one can get one.
Gavin Terry, head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that people with dementia have been worst hit by the pandemic and the reduction in health and social care services has had a disastrous impact on them.
He said that virtual appointments and assessments just don’t work for many of them and that it was essential that face to face appointments were available to all so that dementia could be diagnosed as quickly as possible, helping people to remain independent for longer.
This situation is going to end up killing more people than COVID ever will, but then perhaps that’s the idea.
GPs are hiding from their patients, they’re failing to diagnose conditions and risking patients lives, and now if you phone up for an appointment rather than talking to a doctor, you end up talking to a nurse.
If a doctor refuses to see you and misdiagnoses a serious problem, then this is negligence, and we are all being failed by our GPs and we should be issuing proceedings against these doctors, who will all eventually fall like a pack of cards.
Instead of calling it the National Health Service, we should be calling it the No Health Service.
And Boris Johnson should be taking charge, sending GPs back to the surgery where they should be doing their job properly because this is going to lead to serious misdiagnoses down the line, resulting in even more pressure and ultimately death. Everyone knows that early diagnosis not only saves lives but also saves money.