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NEWS: GPs struggle after patients swamp on-line message system

by in GP Practice Management, News

GPs have been deluged with overnight messages from overwrought patients since a new on-line appointment system was introduced, it has been revealed.

The new on-line GP inquiry system has provoked a 16-page letter from one practice to patients, asking them to reconsider the way it is used. GPs at the Ivy Grove Surgery, Derbyshire, say that demand has doubled in the last year after contractual changes required practices to use on-line services such as eConsult.

It is the latest complaint about the system after some practices began searching for ways to limit its use at weekends. The system allows patients to send a message to their GP, requesting a consultation. The Derbyshire practice is now looking for ways to return to a more traditional appointment system.

The Derbyshire letter sets out in detail the problems that have emerged, comparing the new system to opening “a brand new lane on a full motorway that was already littered with roadworks” and creating an instant traffic jam. The practice says patients are now “ignoring self-care” and avoiding responsibility in looking after themselves, even though the eConsult system offers large amounts of advice of this kind. Some are submitted multiple eConsult inquiries daily or putting multiple issues into a single appointment. They are also failing to take medical advice and exaggerating symptoms of pain, the doctors say.

The letter states: “We have had eConsults simply because people have been thinking about their bodies and what has or could go wrong with them. We have had eConsults submitted at all sorts of random hours, in the dead of night, at times when patients would not have ordinarily called an out-of-hours doctor or rung 111.”

It goes on: “In fact, patients are sometimes reporting their symptoms so early in their condition before anything else has developed or evolved, that consequently it is difficult to know what actually is the matter. Real medicine is nothing like on TV medical dramas where not only complex diagnosis can be made but also that it is fixed before the closing credits.”

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