Four in ten GP appointments in England were still not being held face-to-face last month despite mounting calls for doctors to see their patients in person, official figures show.
NHS Digital's monthly report found around 11.1million out of 28.5m appointments (39 per cent) throughout September were not in a surgery, with most being done over the phone or online.
The figures mark a very slight rise in the proportion of in-person consultations from August, but a growing number of patients are having their appointments with an alternative member of staff.
Just half (51 per cent) of appointments were with a qualified GP, with the rest carried out by nurses, pharmacy assistants, other medical staff — and even acupuncturists.
And one in 12 patients are now waiting more than three weeks to be seen by a GP (8 per cent), up from around one in 17 last month (6 per cent).
Patients in London and the South East were least likely to be able to see their GP in person, figures showed, with just over half of appointments in the capital carried out face-to-face. And at some surgeries in Greater Manchester, the proportion of patients seen in-person was just 44 per cent.
Campaign groups told MailOnline today that the figures were 'hardly a significant rise' and 'not encouraging' given all the publicity around the issue.
They said there was little sign the situation had improved in October, with most members telling them there had been 'no change' in GPs appointments.
But the Royal College of GPs said the figures highlighted 'just how extremely hard GPs and our teams are working', juggling caring for patients in the community and alleviating pressure on the NHS.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid boldly unveiled a package of measures last month threatening to name and shame surgeries that failed to see enough patients. He also said a 'hit squad' would be sent to underperforming GPs to boost the number of face-to-face appointments and review management at the practice.
But the announcement was met with consternation by GPs who moaned about the initiative, branding it 'unfair, demoralising and indefensible'. Some unions warned it could trigger a wave of retirements.
‹ Slide me ›
The above maps show the proportion of GP appointments that were carried out face-to-face in September 2019 (left), before the pandemic struck, and September 2021 (right)
Some four in ten appointments are still not being carried out face-to-face, figures showed. The above graph shows the proportion of appointments that have been face-to-face since September two years ago
The raft of statistics — published today — showed GPs are still not seeing anywhere near as many patients in person as before the first Covid lockdown.
Some 17.3million appointments were face-to-face in September (61 per cent of all appointments).
But this lagged far behind September 2019, before the pandemic, when more than eight in ten appointments were face-to-face.
MPs said in Parliament this week how they were hearing from dozens of constituents who were being denied appointments with GPs.
Conservative Joy Morrissey told the Commons how her mother-in-laws stroke was missed because she was seen remotely.
Beaconsfield MP Joy Morrissey said paying surgeries to see more patients face-to-face or at home would pressure off hospitals during the busy winter period in the NHS
An MP has told how her mother-in-law's stroke was misdiagnosed because of remote appointments.
Conservative Joy Morrissey, who represents Beaconsfield, told the Commons this week that the delay in care led to 'terrible damage'.
She said her mother-in-law now needs 24-hour care because of the dealy.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: 'I can say I speak from experience. For days my own mother-in-law was misdiagnosed as having a UTI when, in fact, she had suffered a severe stroke.
'Precious time was lost and terrible damage done because she was not seen by a GP.
'For every hundred ailments that could be diagnosed safely by not seeing a GP, there will be one that won't, one that could prove to be fatal, and that is not a price worth paying.'
The MP said GPs should receive cash incentives to push them to see more patients.
She argued this would also ease pressure on A&E departments and other parts of the NHS.
The delay to her care led to 'terrible damage', the MP for Beaconsfield said, and she is now 'completely disabled and needs 24-hour care.'
Doctors say many people find remote appointments more convenient. But there have been reports of desperate patients struggling to see a GP or vital signs being missed due to a lack of in-person