Government to scrap 2m rule in GP practices in push for more in-person appointments

Social distancing rules in GP surgeries could be scrapped as part of government plans to increase face-to-face consultations, reports suggest.

Social distancing rules to change (Photo: Getty Images)
Social distancing rules to change (Photo: Getty Images)

The two-metre rule, adopted at the beginning of the pandemic, is likely to be abandoned as part of a package of measures from the health secretary Sajid Javid to address access issues, according to the Daily Mail.

It has also been reported that GPs resisting a return to face-to-face appointments will be ‘held to account’, and could face ‘potential financial sanctions’. The plans will also seek to reduce bureaucracy on surgeries.

Potential measures to scrap social distancing measures come just weeks after Mr Javid said in parliament it was 'high time' for GPs to offer face-to-face appointments for anyone who wants one.

COVID guidance

Reports claim that GP surgeries will be given new COVID-19 guidance, including scrapping the two-metre social distancing rule, while enhanced cleaning requirements could be relaxed in a bid to free up GPs.

The government is expected to look to ease pressure on family doctors by getting hospitals to write more prescriptions and complete fit notes. Pharmacies could also be asked to deliver extra vaccinations.

Data from NHS Digital shows that GPs are delivering around 60% of consultations face-to-face - in addition to millions more as part of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall recently argued that the GP workforce was not large enough to deal with unlimited in-person appointments.

He said: 'The real issue here is not about face-to-face consultations, but the chronic shortage of GPs caused by a decade of under-investment in the family doctor service by successive governments.

GP workforce

'We need the secretary of state to ensure that the government urgently delivers on its election manifesto promise of 6,000 additional GPs and 26,000 extra members of the wider practice team. We also need initiatives to reduce bureaucratic burdens and prevent more GPs from burning out and leaving the profession.

'General practice has been open throughout the pandemic and the move to mainly remote consultations from the start of COVID-19 was in line with government guidelines. It was necessary for infection control and to keep patients - and GP teams - as safe as possible.'

The health secretary, who has been in post since June, was recently accused of being out of touch with reality after claiming that GPs should start seeing more patients in person with the country 'almost back to completely normal'.

The DHSC was approached for comment.

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