BICESTER GPs are busier than ever in providing appointments of all types for patients, a local doctor has said.

When the pandemic started and the country was sent into lockdown, practices reduced the amount of face-to-face appointments in order to minimise the risk of spreading Covid.

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Instead, patients could speak to their GP on the phone or via video call, and if the doctor felt they needed to be physically assessed, then they could be seen in-person.

But now, some people feel face-to-face appointments should fully return as other services are back to normal.

Kim-Georgina Grove, from Oxford, said: "How can a doctor diagnose anyone without actually looking at them? Ear infections, cancers, skin problems, rashes, gastro problems all require some form of physical examination and people are at the mercy of the quality of their phone camera and the docs equipment."

Others however are happy with virtual appointments, saying it is less time consuming.

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Oxfordshire resident Jean Paldan said: "I think in-person slows things down for them. For people who need to be seen, sure, I think that if they are wearing a mask and they haven't shown symptoms, haven't been around anyone who has Covid, it would be fine. But a lot of people like pointless face to face meetings.

"They aren't always needed in a digital age."

Data from NHS England shows 346,000 GP appointments were carried out in June within the NHS Oxfordshire CCG area, 49 per cent of which involved a face-to-face meeting.

That was the same as in May, but a significant drop from 75 per cent in June 2019.

NHS England issued guidance to GP practices in May urging them to offer more face-to-face appointments.

Dr Toby Quartley, a GP partner at Alchester Medical Group which runs practices in Nightingale Place and Buckingham Road in Bicester said: “The Bicester GPs are busier than they’ve ever been in providing appointments of all types for their patients.

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"For example, Alchester Medical Practice has arranged 6,537 face-to-face patients’ appointments with our GPs during the first six months of this year and there were 18,927 other types of appointments with our GPs.

"There were another 10,282 face-to-face appointments with our nurses at the practice."

He also said many people say the new system works better for them and that avoiding unnecessary patients’ visits to the practices remains vital as the risks of Covid-19 remain high and the flu season approaches.

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