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GPs go forth

Hancock: Patients 'won't go back' from online GP consultations after pandemic

Patients who have got used to online GP and outpatient appointments during the crisis may not want face-to-face appointments when things go back to normal, health secretary Matt Hancock has suggested.

Mr Hancock has stressed that the NHS 'must not lose' the digital 'advances' that have been made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he said patients must continue to present to health services in person when they need to, even in the current circumstances.

Speaking at this evening's coronavirus briefing, Mr Hancock said he paid 'tribute to the staff who have worked in different ways to how they would have ever imagined and who have been more flexible and open to change when it was really needed'.

‘So where there have been advances, amongst these huge challenges of this crisis, we must not lose them.’

He added: 'I think many people who have now used online GP consultations and online outpatient visits won’t ever go back.’

But, citing A&E statistics that showed usage was down more than 50% on the same period last year, Mr Hancock said patients must 'come forward and seek help as you always would' if they suffer worrying symptoms such as chest pain or lumps, or if they are a parent who is concerned about their child.

The past week saw 221,000 A&E attendances, in stark contrast to the 477,000 of the same week last year. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘Our message is that the NHS is open - help us to help you.'

His comments come as RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall has estimated that only 7-8% of GP consultations are being carried out face to face at the present time.

He suggested, earlier this month, that up to half of GP consultations may continue to be carried out remotely after the crisis, including via telephone.

Readers' comments (26)

  • The pubs are closed. The clubs are closed. People aren’t playing football. That must account for 50% of a&e workload

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  • Hey Matt you useless Tory idiot (excuse the banter).
    Have you not learned yet that the cash constrained NHS game is not about ‘want’ it is about ‘need’.
    Experience so far shows that online stuff- video consults, telephone consults etc take longer to deal with than an average consult, and still leave elements of doubt.
    Time GPs don’t have (except those who can charge handsomely doing it privately).
    But if you fancy breaking your ideology and pouring some actual fuel in the tank then feel free. We’ll also need a few more actual people to carry out your brave new world- let’s just see how many of us are still around at the end of this pandemic first, PPE allowing......

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  • Be careful what you wish for - patients are not coming in because they are scared of the virus

    But we still have patients complain about not getting a face to face appointment

    We as GPs have shown our flexibility again by going online and triage based - but will all patients really want that going forward. We may end up having to do what we were doing and then the digital stuff on top

    And no amount of social prescribers is going to help that

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Yes because we are nothing more than an advisory service now. Absolutely no need to examine patients any more, only proper doctors at the hospital need to do that. I dont need to smell the alchhol on the breath at 10am of a hidden alcoholic because an app will do that. No need to see the hidden self harm lacerations because an app will do that. No need to notice the malignant melanoma on the patients back which they didnt know they had because an app will do that.

    I am a doctor, I examine 99% of my patients. I need to see them face to face.

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  • Stoking demand. Will this help those who need it most? And will it improve general practice? Or another money-spinning exercise at our expense?

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  • NHSDs own research shows 1-3% of people want online or video consultations. They almost have to forced to use them. It’s great for 24 year old arts graduates but not for most people. When asked what they want, most patients (97%) say F2F access (and not telephone or other options). Digital evangelism is not generally evidence based.

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  • Arriving at work and not seeing a long queue of the usual suspects is a silver lining to a dark cloud

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  • We still remember you (Matt Hancock) endorsing a private healthcare company (GP at Hand) about 18mths ago. You had an interview which appeared in the Evening Standard's Future London Health Supplement, paid for by Babylon.
    You were accused of breaking ministerial code at the time.
    Seems to me you have a financial interest in promoting GP video consultations, and, instead of
    now focussing on this pandemic, you are, like a true Tory, looking to feather your own nest.
    The role for remote GP-patient video consultations is minor, panders to some few patient wants, and put additional risk into the consultation, both for patient and doctor.

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  • doctordog.

    A face to face is worth a thousand words and might save hundreds of thousands in compensation.

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