Many GPs urgently need technology upgrades to ensure they can work from home, according to their college – as 75% of appointments now take place electronically.
Only 50% of GPs have been able to practice from home during the lock-down – and this is mainly because of inadequate technology, according to the Royal College of GPs. As well as basic laptops, GPs need VPN technology to give them a secure connection to their practice records.
A thousand doctors took part in a college survey. Under the rules of lock-down all workers who can work from home should do so. Many GPs need to self-isolate or may even come into the shielded category of those told not to leave their homes for 12 weeks. The college called for a plan for remote care with new guidance on the use of technology.
College chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “We’ve seen a very rapid and necessary revolution in the way care is delivered in general practice and the way GPs, our teams and our patients have adapted to this has been remarkable. However, we are still facing barriers – many GPs, for example, are telling us they are having technological difficulties with working remotely from home due to a lack of adequate hardware and software. This means that they can’t undertake patient consultations if they are having to self-isolate but still well enough to work and affects capacity across the rest of the service. We need this to be addressed urgently, so that GPs can continue to play a vital role in safely delivering care to patients with non-Covid conditions – as well as those with the virus – during this pandemic.
“It’s also imperative that we safeguard the technological advances we have made during the pandemic, so that we can continue to work in different ways in the best interests of patients when we eventually get Covid-19 under control.”
He added: “This is not to say that general practice is going to become a permanently remote service – many patients want and need to be seen face to face in order to properly address their presenting problems – but having the technological capability to offer remote consultations, where appropriate, will be beneficial for general practice, the wider NHS and most importantly our patients.”