A survey by the Royal College of GPs involving 859 family doctors carried out over two weeks found 61 per cent of current consultations are via phone call, 6 per cent through text or email and 4 per cent by online video.

Telephone triage assessments and home visits account for another 18 per cent, meaning that only 11 per cent of consultations led to direct contact at a surgery.

This has been highlighted by a recent experience related by a reader of Lytham St. Anne’s News, who was requested to use a system called ‘econsult’.

‘A fortnight after slipping on a wet garden lawn and falling quite heavily, I was still experiencing intermittent pains in my right hip and right shoulder.  Time to get some advice and help. I am a very infrequent visitor to the doctors, despite my advancing years – so I checked my surgery’s website for the telephone number, I found from their website that the preferred means of contact was an online form (econsult) which took my symptoms and what I had already tried to alleviate the problem. Following the on-line submission of the form, the surgery rang and sorted a next day telephone appointment with a doctor.

Following the telephone appointment I went to the chemist to pick up a tube of gel to rub in my sore back and shoulder and paracetamol (my prescribed medicines) – plus in the post I received a self-referral form for the hospital’s Joint Health Integrated Musculoskeletal Care Service.

Whilst this may be in this case the best way forward, the GP never physically checked me  Is this going to be the ‘new normal’ we can expect from GPs?

Professor Martin Marshall, from the Royal College of GPs , said: ‘These changes were made out of necessity – to keep our patients and our teams safe and to help stop the spread of Covid-19 – but there is a compelling case to retain some aspects of the different ways we’ve been working. The pandemic has shown care can be delivered effectively and safely remotely, where appropriate.’