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No evidence that online consultations save time, says CCG

There is currently no evidence the digital pilots testing online consultations across North West London have saved any GP time, it has been revealed.

In board papers released yesterday, NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG discussed the recent evaluation of Babylon GP at Hand carried out by Ipsos Mori.

CCG managing director Janet Cree highlighted there were digital pilots being carried out in London and primary care lead Coral Skeldon added that currently, the pilots ‘were not showing any evidence’ of saving time.

The pilots were said to allow better access to healthcare services for patients, but not yet benefitting GPs.

The papers said: ‘CS [Coral Skeldon] noted that, currently, the pilots were not showing any evidence that a digital offer saved any time.

‘However, it was clear that for some patients this was a better way of accessing services. It was agreed that the committee needed to give further consideration to the local position on digital.’

But the CCG later said it was too early to tell if the online consultations will save time.

A spokesperson said: ’We are at the early stages of online consultations and have been running a pilot which is still being evaluated. It is too early yet to say whether online consultations save time. 

’Early indicators are that the patients who access general practice online appreciate consulting their GP in this way. 

’The national requirement is that 75% of patients have access to online consultations by March 2020 and NW London CCGs are on  track to deliver this.’

It follows the news that the cap on the list size of Babylon’s Birmingham clinic will be removed if it meets a set of criteria.

The papers also highlighted the CCG will monitor the continuity of care provided by GP at Hand.

Ms Cree said one of the ‘key areas’ in the Ipsos Mori evaluation was the issue of continuity of care.

The committee suggested it would be something to monitor, and Ms Cree added it was for the clinical assurance group to look at.

A Babylon spokesperson said patients can choose to see the same GP if they want, but most do not.

They said: ’We are proud to offer an easily-accessible, 24/7, digital-first NHS service for those whose current needs are not being as well met by traditional services, particularly as the independent evaluation by Ipsos Mori found our patients were overwhelmingly happy with our service.

’Our patients can choose to see the same GP again, but most do not, knowing that the GP they see will have all their notes and records on the screen in front of them.

’For patients with the greatest needs, such as complex mental health issues or multiple medical problems, we also have a care coordination team. This multidisciplinary team means each patient can be assigned their own care coordinator and GP and provides continuity of care and care coordination for our most vulnerable patients.’

It comes as NHS England said patients from digital practices are three times more likely to deregister and return to their original practice.

NHSE also said in June it plans to make it easier for digital-first providers to set up new practices, particularly in deprived areas, from April 2020.

Readers' comments (6)

  • None of the online, phone calls, Skype etc save time. All they do is increase access to us and make our lives busier and busier. We need to stop adding things to our resume to do otherwise the whole system will crash and burn in the next few years and unfortunately patients will then realise what they had originally was enough.

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  • Dear All,
    The important thing to do is for every on-line or digital appointment you offer, take back a face to face one.
    Paul C

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  • It's a very good way - and a very expensive way - of delivering care for trivial problems.
    The knock on effects will be huge, as we shift resources from dealing with multiple chronic illnesses and genuinely sick people seen face-to-face, to dealing with 2 hour sore throats and 8 month old verrucas. Already allowing patients to book in online has quadrupled by DNA rate and reduced my personal productivity by 10%, though I do now get to go to the toilet or make a cup of coffee occasionally.

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  • DrRubbishBin

    It mis-allocates limited resources towards the trivial, doesn't save any clinician time so won't improve over all access and it costs money...great!! let's roll it out to Birmingham - no one much likes the midlands anyway

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  • how to further de skill you medical team as a social experiment - total stupidity. You will reap what you have sown. expect more acute emergencies for missed diagnosis in A&E and later presentations of cancer. the madness continues.

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  • Does not take a genius to know that. The slow web and IT "issues" would certainly slow it down. Web consultations can also be recorded without consent leading to further issues.

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