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General practice will be a 'virtual service' in new towns, says Stevens

General practice will in future be accessed via a ‘virtual primary care service’ with patients calling GPs on their iPhone and face-to-face interaction happening via video consultation, NHS England’s chief executive has said.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Simon Stevens said that the concept of physically attending a GP appointment was ‘alien’ to entire generations of people in their teens, 20s and 30s.

He said that the NHS will look to pioneer this new health service model in new towns, like Ebbsfleet in Kent, and in high population growth areas like Tower Hamlets.

Mr Stevens told the Financial Times these towns would start with ‘the default assumption that digital interaction will be the main way that people will interact with the health service’.

He said that rather than registering with a GP, patients would sign on to: ‘the virtual primary care service, and then… rather than booking an appointment, just be able to call up a doctor or a nurse on [their] iPhone, and have the face-to-face interaction there’.

He added: ‘The idea of booking appointments and physically turning up to GP surgeries for routine things is an alien concept’.

Readers' comments (40)

  • Its simple....the man needs to be paid a virtual salary for genuine drivel being dished out by shed-loads

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  • Now just stick your finger up your own bum . What do you feel ?

    I feel an asshole .

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  • its a daft idea. Not just because of the obvious one of not being able to do physical examination but also all the other reasons face to face is valuable. When I see a patient I can tell so much about how they are feeling by subtle signs on their face or their demeanour and way of moving and sitting that would probably be lost on a Skype interview. There are also the times I may touch a patient for reassurance or offer a tissue or draw a little diagram or show them something that could not be done on Skye. My patients often like to bring a partner or one or two family members or friends in. Their views can be helpful. I think that would be harder on Skype. And actually It misunderstands young people to think they don't value having a trusting relationship with a doctor they know, even if for a short period. We have many younger people registered in our practice and many are living away from home and struggling with new jobs, new relationships, caring for themselves and so on. They often consult about apparently trivial things and I have come to realise its because they feel anxious and vulnerable. its not easy being a young person trying to make your way in life. I feel I am able to create a supportive doctor-patient relationship which provides reassurance. Even in a high turnover practice in the inner city where I work we are able to provide good person centred care and although the young person may move on in a year or two, the fact they can have a proper human relationship with a doctor can be tremendously helpful for them. I just don't think Skype could do that. And why is he suggesting Skype and not just telephone unless its because he realises there is something about the human face that matters? Yet the human face mediated through a Skype screen loses so much in translation. its like he wants to pretend its a proper consultation cos you can see each other, but its not.

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  • Skype has half a million users worldwide (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21194801). I couldn't find a figure for what proportion of those live in the UK.

    Even if it's all of them (clue: it isn't), that would mean 1% of the UK population uses skype. Whereas at least 99% of the UK population have access to a phone.

    Conclusion: telephone is at over 99 times as popular as skype for telecommunication in the UK. Skype is a minority pursuit.

    Why then bother setting up for consultations on Skype when UK general practice already offers telephone consultation as standard?

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  • Did he mention what the timeline is for the creation, beta testing and roll out of an IG approved tool for this, because Skype will not be acceptable. Given the track record of NHS IT, I think its embarrassing that someone so high up is so clueless. Even if they had it in development, by the time you've allowed for delivering it late, it not working at all when it arrives, and then half of us deciding to give up on it, we might be at another election before we get close to this.

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  • Virtually non -existent

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  • Presumably they will not need Doctors at all anyway. Virtual computerised doctors will be able to diagnose and prescribe for them.

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  • at the rate we are losing doctors - it is effectively becoming a 'virtual' service !

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  • nice one simon. let me know if I can help you in cloud cuckoo land

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  • I always thought that medicine was about examinaing people and putting together the puzzle, the 20-30 year olds just need to firstly do some self help instead of expecting others to sort their problems.

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