GP practices are advised that they must ensure that patients can be seen face-to-face when they need such appointments.
NHS England writes to all practices to ensure it communicates the fact that doctors can be seen in person if needed, as well as virtually.
NSD Digital said it was estimated that half of the 102 million appointments from March to July were by video or phone call.
The Royal College of General Practitioners said any suggestion that GPs were not doing their job properly was “insulting”.
NHS England said research indicated that nearly two-thirds of the public were happy to make a phone or video call to their doctor – but, before winter, they wanted to make sure people knew they could see their GP if needed.
Nicky Kanani, Medical Director for Primary Care at NHS England, said GPs have adapted rapidly in recent months to provide remote consultations and “safe, face-to-face care when needed”.
She added: ‘While many people, particularly those most at risk of contracting Covid-19, want the convenience of counseling via phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to provide face-to-face appointments and I urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can To get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you. “
NHS England said it will remind general practitioners that they face enforcement action if they fail to provide face-to-face clinically defined appointments. She said failure to do so was a breach of their contract.
Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of Practitioners, said the general practice was “open and has been throughout the epidemic,” with a predominantly remote service to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“The college does not want the general practice to shift to post-pandemic service entirely or even mostly,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We need to look at infection control and reducing the uptake of GP surgeries – all in line with current NHS England guidelines.”
He said that most patients understood the changes and that clinical commissioning groups were asked to work with GP practices where face-to-face appointments were not possible – for example, if all GPs were at risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“Any implicit indication that they were not doing their job properly is an insult to the doctors and their teams who have worked throughout the epidemic, continuing to provide the vast majority of patient care in the NHS and facing an incredibly difficult winter,” he said.
Research from the college indicated that GP routine appointments are back to near normal levels for this time of year, after declining at the height of the epidemic.
Professor Marshall added, “Every day of the past week, an estimated one-third of a million appointments were delivered face to face through public practices across the country.”
It comes as thousands of doctors say a second peak is likely this winter – and their biggest fear.
A British Medical Association survey of more than 8,000 doctors and medical students found that 86% of them believed a second peak was likely, or very likely, in the next six months.
The survey indicated that clinicians believed the two most important measures to help prevent such a climax was a fit-for-purpose testing and tracking system and a “coherent, rapid and consistent approach to local disease outbreaks”.
BMA Chair Dr. Chand Nagpole said: “We, as a profession, want above all to avoid returning to the scenes we saw in April, when hospitals were full of Covid-19 patients, and hundreds were dying every day. Thousands of others missed vital appointments and procedures. Where routine care has been suspended.
“But while the outlook in this poll may be bleak, it is not inevitable if the government takes decisive, strong and timely measures to curb the spread of infection.”
He called on the government to focus on “solving the test and tracking disaster once and for all,” adding: “We are at a critical crossroads in combating this deadly virus.”
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