Patients are now speaking to their GP online, or via video chat, for a record one in 50 appointment.
Of around 28 million GP appointments in England in August, almost 600,000 were made online or via video call.
This represents 2.1 percent of appointments, or approximately one in every 50 consultations.
According to analysis of NHS data by the PA news agency, it is up 1.8 per cent on July, and is the highest proportion of appointments seen since current records began in November 2017.
The figures are for online appointments only and do not include the high proportion of GP appointments (around a quarter) made by telephone.
Of around 28 million GP appointments in England in August, almost 600,000 were made online or via video call (file image)
But they help explain the decline in face-to-face appointments that continues to be seen even after the pandemic, during which in-person consultations fell to an all-time low.
Patient advocates worry that symptoms may go undetected when people are not seen in person by their doctor, and say some older people may have difficulty with online and video technology, raising concerns about a increase in this type of queries.
Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, which campaigns for elderly patients, said: “We are getting more and more reports of people who are basically being forced to use online virtual appointments and can’t even receive a phone call with their doctor”.
‘This is extremely worrying, because many older people find this technology very difficult to use, when they did not grow up with the Internet and did not use it in their jobs.
‘People should not need to be technical experts to speak to their GP.
‘Large sections of the population are at risk of being left behind and their health may be affected.
“Face-to-face appointments are best, and online appointments will always be a second-tier appointment, where symptoms may go unnoticed when described on the Internet.”
The increase in online or video call appointments has accompanied a drop in those made in person, which went from 70 percent of appointments in April to 67.9 percent in August, the lowest figure in 12 months.
Around 26.5 per cent of appointments in August were made by telephone, while one per cent were home visits, with little change to these figures in recent months.
Patients now speak to their GP online, or via video chat, for a record one in 50 appointment (stock image)
Speaking on behalf of the Rebuild General Practice campaign, Oxfordshire GP Dr Rachel Ward said: “Video appointments are best for many patients who tell us they like the flexibility and efficiency, while others patients prefer to come see us.
He added: “We want to be able to see our patients and give them the care they need, but the system is broken.”
‘Decades of negligence across the health service and especially in general practice have put patient safety at risk.
“That is why we are calling for a proper plan to invest in general practice and help us provide the service patients deserve.”
Dr Victoria Tzortziou Brown, vice-president of the Royal College Of General Practitioners, said: “We know that some patients prefer to see their GP in person, and many GPs prefer this form of consultation, but some patients find that the care remote is a convenient and effective way. to access the services of a family doctor.’
NHS England guidance says GP surgeries should respect patients’ preferences for a face-to-face appointment, unless there are good clinical reasons not to do so.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘General practice teams have experienced record demand for their services, with half a million more appointments each week compared to before the pandemic, and almost seven in 10 appointments took place face-to-face in August.
“The NHS is committed to improving patient access, which is why we published our primary care access recovery plan in May, which included historic support for patients and GP surgeries.”