Growing numbers of GPs think the lockdown switch to telemedicine heralds a permanent shift to new ways of working – even though video-consultations have failed take off, professional leaders say.
The latest data from practices show that in May 48% of GP appointments were conducted over the phone. Just a tiny fraction were recorded as being conducted by video or on-line – 40,000 out of 16 million. The number of these consultations slumped during lockdown compared with January when there were more than 190,000, the data shows, perhaps reflecting reduced activity by commercial companies.About 55% of appointments are undertaken by GPs and 42% by other practice staff, the NHS Digital data shows.
The British Medical Association says that 88% of GPs now want increased use of remote consultation to continue. GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “There has been a massive change from the vast majority of consultations in general practice taking place face to face, to now the vast majority taking place by telephone or increasingly by video consultation.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said he expected a 50-50 split between remote and face-to-face consultations in the future. He said: “It is in no one’s interest for general practice to become a largely remote service as that will run the risk of isolating some patients, for example those with complex needs as well as our less tech-savvy patients and those who don’t have access to the appropriate tech – this in turn risks exacerbating health inequalities.”