Between April 2020 and March 2021 there were over 2.3 million general practice appointments in Buckinghamshire. Almost half of these were held remotely.

Last updated: 21st June 2021

Whilst many people have been able to adjust to having their doctor’s appointment by telephone or online, there are some people who have difficulties with these types of appointments. This may be due to:

  • disability or health conditions
  • no access to the necessary technology needed or an inability to use it
  • issues with communicating over the phone

We wanted to hear from these people. From January to March this year we heard from 30 people across Buckinghamshire who had had at least one remote doctor’s appointment. They fell mainly into the following groups:

  • those over 65, including those with dementia
  • those with ASD, a mental health condition or learning disability

We wanted to know what made remote doctor’s appointments difficult for them so that we could recommend improvements for this type of appointment. We have passed our findings to the Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to work with GPs to improve their services. Healthwatch Bucks will publish their response when we receive it.

This report was updated on 21 June 2021 with new links to NHS England resources.

Accessing Remote Appointments Report

Published on 11 Jun, 2021 (updated 21 Jun, 2021)

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4 comments on "Accessing Remote Appointments in Bucks"

  • Commenter said on 17th June 2021

    I really don’t see how a diagnosis can be made without seeing /observing a patient. There are clues in body language, facial expressions. It’s the comment made just as a patient is leaving the appointment like “oh by the way doctor” which may be the real reason why somebody has attended the surgery.
    It’s a personal appointment 1:1 with a GP, during which a patient can say what it may not be possible to say on the phone at home (or online) or in the workplace or any where there are other people within earshot – like children, partners, colleagues.
    There is a clinical situation where some GP’s have no idea what a patient looks like. Patients with chronic health conditions who haven’t seen a GP for 15 months, yet have had medication prescribed.
    Weren’t medical students taught to take a full history and examine their patient? “If you do not put your finger in it, you will put your foot in it”
    Opticians can and do see patients face to face, as can dentists. Hospital consultants do face to face appointments, operate and undertake invasive diagnostic procedures. What makes GP’s so different that they can’t (or is it WON’T?) see patients face to face unless you beg for an appointment?
    Healthcare professionals have been on the frontline caring directly for Covid patients, GP’s can hardly call themselves their equals.
    Should be wish to we are allowed to go to the cinema, the hairdresser, have facials, manicures, pedicures, sweat it out at the gym, go to the shops, have six people in our houses all day, they can stay overnight; (that applies to GP’s too) it does not make sense that GP’s show such reluctance to see patients; the NHS is there to look after us, the public, not for us to protect it.

  • Commenter said on 21st June 2021

    We as a family have had a few remote appointments with our local surgery and they have worked well.
    We have also resorted to emails to get attention from our GP surgery. It worked. But what about those who wait for phone calls that never come and can’t use email ?

  • Commenter said on 11th July 2021

    What an interesting report. I hope the CCG, PCNs and Surgeries take time to reflect on the contents.
    Two issues were both a surprise and a disappointment:

    1. The lack of response from Surgeries and
    2. The comments from the person who is described as ‘other patient facing’.

    If your starting point is that complaints are unfounded, you have missed the point. A complaint matters to the person who makes it, and should be dealt with accordingly and sensitively. Failure to do this might just lead to avoidance of the formal procedure and resort to Social Media.
    I understood that those working within an NHS contract of any sort, were expected to treat complaints as ‘learning opportunities’ not irritants.

  • Commenter said on 2nd September 2021

    People with dementia are being let down particularly badly. They find it impossible to describe their symptoms over the phone, they often cannot use computers and they find the absence of a GP’s personal attention both distressing and frightening. Virtual GP appointments must never replace face-to-face care.

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