GP practices must make sure patients can access face to face appointments when they need them, NHS England has said.

A letter sent to all GP practices asked practices to ensure they have made clear through communication with the public - whether online or through verbal conversations - that face to face appointments continue to be on offer, where clinically appropriate, in addition to video and phone consultations.

Between March to July NHS Digital estimated that there were 102 million appointments in general practice, half of which were recorded over the phone or through video calls.

And research suggests that almost two thirds of the public are happy to have a GP consultation remotely. But the NHS want to ensure that ahead of winter, the public know they can continue to visit their local GP surgery if appropriate.

Patients must call ahead or visit the GP website for an appointment before attending.

Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England Nikki Kanani said: “The last few months has seen general practice playing a vital role in the fight against coronavirus, adapting quickly to significantly increase the availability of video and phone consultations and offer safe face to face care when needed.

“While many people, particularly those most vulnerable to Covid-19 want the convenience of a consultation over the phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to offer face to face appointments and I would urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you.”

The letter also provides GP surgeries with a communications toolkit to support them in highlighting their practice availability with their local population.

Practices were also reminded that they face enforcement action if they fail to offer clinically indicated face to face appointments to patients.

The letter comes after the NHS previously wrote out to all practices on July 31 to say that failure to offer appropriate face-to-face appointments at their surgeries, in addition to remote triage and video, online and telephone consultation, is considered a breach of their contract.