General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic. On 14 September 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to general practice to raise the importance of providing face-to-face appointments, which included a communications toolkit to help practices provide patients with clear messaging on how they can access services by phone, online or in person. General practice in response to COVID-19 has transformed the way its care services operate. Practices have delivered alongside face-to-face appointments, total triage and remote consultations to serve as many patients as possible, while protecting staff and the public from risk of infection.
General practice appointment levels are now close to pre-pandemic numbers. In February 2021, an estimated 23.5 million appointments were booked in general practice in England - an average of 1.19 million per working weekday, compared to 1.24 million appointments per working weekday in February 2020. In February 2021,13.0 million appointments were face to face, which is 55.3% of all appointments.
The Government has published clear guidance on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care workers, including general practitioners (GPs), consistent with World Health Organization advice. PPE guidance supports and allows the safe recommencement and maintaining of face-to-face GP appointments and where appropriate, PPE has been made available free of charge.