SEEING a GP should not necessarily be the first option for every health issue - a health committee has been told.

Members of Bradford Council's Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee were given an update on the restoration of normal Primary Care services following Covid at their most recent meeting.

The issue has become a controversial one in recent weeks, as many GP surgeries are still not back to a pre-Covid level of face to face appointments.

As of the start of October, three surgeries have yet to fully open - Cottingley only opens to 1pm due to staffing issues, and Gargrave and Oakworth surgeries are deemed to be "not Covid safe" due to the size and layout of the buildings.

In August there were 325,000 GP appointments in Bradford and Craven. Of these 200,000 were face to face, with the rest being over the phone or online.

This compares to around 360,000 appointments in January 2020, of which 300,000 were face to face.

Before the pandemic 11 per cent of appointments in the area were over the phone. Most recent figures put this at 34 per cent.

A report to members said the shift to more online appointments was part of the NHS's long term plan.

At the meeting it was acknowledged that there had been a dissatisfaction among the public over difficulties accessing face to face GP appointments.

But representatives of the local Primary Care Trust told members a GP appointment was not always the most suitable response to a health issue, and often district nurses or other health specialists would be better suited to deal with maladies.

During the meeting Councillor Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) said face to face meetings were an important way of checking on issues separate to what the appointment may be about.

Bradford's NHS staff suffer vile tide of physical and verbal abuse

He said: "When you go to a GP they might also ask 'when did you last get them checked mate?' You don't get conversations like that on Zoom.

"If you're not meeting people in person you may miss out on issues like mental health, forced marriage, female genital mutilation. All these issues require a person to be speaking to a human being."

He agreed that GPs were not needed to deal with every issue, but that the public needed to be better informed on what the alternatives were. Cllr Berry added: "If we were able to explain to Mrs Miggins why she might be better seeing a specialist nurse over a GP and why that would be a good thing, that would help."

Parveen Akhtar, Associate Director Keeping Well –. Primary Care, said: "There is a lot of work we need to do about educating the public that primary care is about more than a GP. If you have an issue with your foot it is better to see a chiropodist than a GP, but a lot of people think a GP should be the first call."

Dr David Tathan, a GP in Buttershaw, said the primary care system was always going to move to more web or phone appointments, but that this shift had been "accelerated" by the Covid pandemic. He said the shift needed to be much better publicised.

He said many people still thought a GP should be the first point of contact for any health issue, despite not always being the most suitable one.

Sue Crowe, a representative for the Disabled Community on the committee, said: "It is difficult to think how you are going to change people's opinions.

"The press are playing a big part in GP bashing, and I think the public are taking that on board."

Dr Tathan said it would be a "hearts and minds journey" saying: "People expect to see a Doctor, and anything else will be deemed a poor service, even if it is actually more appropriate to their needs."

Chair of the Committee Councillor Vanda Greenwood (Lab, Windhill and Wrose) said: "It is about communication. Maybe we need to get more press releases out, let people know that they don't always have to see a GP, and often if you do they'll just refer you to someone more appropriate."