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Independents' Day

One in three patients do not need face-to-face appointments, says minister

One in three patients do not need a face-to-face appointment with their GP, according to health minister Dr Dan Poulter.

Speaking at a Westminster debate last week, Dr Poulter called on the NHS to ‘better utilise’ modern technology which could see patients being seen by doctors over a computer screen, rather than ‘face-to-face’.

‘There are many examples of simple things that can be done, such as having a doctor or nurse talk to a patient on the phone when they call to book an appointment or as an initial assessment.  About one third of patients do not necessarily need a face-to-face GP appointment,’ he said. 

‘Such conversations can reassure callers that they are okay and not that unwell, and that perhaps they should see how things go overnight or later in the day and call back if they need further help. They also help the patient access health care in the most appropriate way, as the GP triages the patient remotely.’ 

However, he later issued a statement adding that ‘patients who are unwell and need to see their GP will still always have quality face-to-face time with them’.

He added: ‘The Government also recognises that not everyone, particularly frail older people, will have easy access to the internet.’ 

Dr Poulter claimed that a technological revolution would save the NHS £2.9bn ‘almost immediately’.

‘We need to harness and better utilise more modern types of technology such as telehealth and mobile technology to support people better in their own homes and to drive down the cost of care.’

Earlier this year the DH published a report ‘Digital First’, which suggested that community nurses should be given iPads when working in rural areas and that GPs should make more use of Skype video calling with patients.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Utter tosh! Email consultations will fill up the whole day. Patients who spend their whole lives on Yourface and Mytube will simply post qyuries all day long.

    When are we supposed to sit down and compose professional responses to all these queries?

    How can you offer opinions about problems without ever seeing the patients never mind not examing them?

    Will Medical Defense fees need to be increased to cover missed diagnoses?

    Thank goodness I retire in 4 months time

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  • I don't mind using technologies but:

    Have they addressed the extra resources needed?
    Have they ensured those who are unable to use technology (elderly, poor, deaf, blind, learning disability, depressed, illiterate etc etc) are not disadvantaged?
    Have they made contingency plans for the technology failing (e.g. Power cut)?

    I doubt the DoH thought that far...... (Or more likely they have but decided the GPs will shoulder all the above, at no extra funding of course)

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  • Vinci Ho

    One in three , mmmmm
    Interesting .
    So he has done a cohort study comparing the standard face to face as against e consultation or telephoning ?
    What is the selection criteria of this kind of patients ?
    Or is this just randomised uncontrolled trial of political sound bites??

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  • would this be in YOUR clinical opinion Minister?

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  • Technology and the NHS. I think I have seen that film already. Rubbish ending.......

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  • Anon, 1:55pm. How many GPs are there who are elderly, poor, deaf, blind, learning disability, depressed illiterate? Do you think revalidation will find them out?!

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  • Anonymous 5:13pm

    Umm I meant the patients, not the GPs. And these are the most vulnerable who are likely to have higher health needs.

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  • p.s. See how easily non face to face communication is misunderstood :)

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  • Tom Caldwell

    Dr Dan Poulter............. does he comment as a politician or as a registered medical practitioner? Sad really that if he made such a statement as a doctor he would need evidence..... as a politician he can and does spout any old crap.

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