Leeds GP Dr Richard Vautrey said surgeries want to be holding more in-person consultations “if that is practically possible to do so” but that there are still risks attached.
His comments come as it was reported that GP surgeries which fail to provide an appropriate level of “access” will be named and shamed in league tables as patients are given a new right to demand face-to-face appointment.
The NHS is ploughing millions of pounds into a new package of measures aimed at improving access to GPs, but practices which fail to provide an “appropriate” level of face-to-face appointments will not be eligible for the new funding.
He described the news as “really concerning that hard working practices that are doing their best to provide a safe, good service to their patients risk being penalised in this way.”
Dr Vautrey, who is also General Practitioners Committee chairman at the BMA (British Medical Association) told The Yorkshire Post: “I think we all want to offer more appointments to our patients, we want to have a greater proportion of face to face appointments, if that is practically possible to do so.
“However we still need to recognise that particularly in Yorkshire there's higher levels of COVID-19 still circulating.
“In some parts of Yorkshire, it's higher than it has been through the other stages of the pandemic, so there's still risk of contracting infections.
“Particularly in a healthcare setting where you might be sat next to somebody who's coming in, because they've got temperature because they've got a cough, so it's possible that you contract that infection whilst you're waiting for face to face appointments.”
Under the new plans, patients will be able to rate their GP practice’s performance via text message.
The measures will also see GPs freed from some red tape, and other parts of the NHS will be called upon to help with some care – such as other healthcare workers being given new powers to provide patients with fit to work notes or DVLA checks.
NHS England said the measures, including a £250 million winter access fund, will enable GP practices to improve availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care.