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Nine in 10 GPs want to continue with remote consultations after coronavirus

Nine in 10 GPs want to carry on delivering consultations remotely after the coronavirus pandemic has ended, a BMA survey has found.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that this could ‘improve access’ and ‘reduce the need’ for home visits in the future.

The latest BMA coronavirus survey found that 88% of GPs think a ‘greater use of remote consultations’ should be retained in the long-term.

More than three-quarters of the 2,500 respondents also said the use of video technology for virtual multi-disciplinary teams, clinical team meetings, and Medical Boards should continue.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘This will reduce the need for physical home visits to some extent although it won’t remove it entirely.

‘The way that practices provide support particularly to housebound patients or care home residents will see an increased use of video technology to improve access to various patients but also to reduce the travel times for clinicians going from their surgeries.

He added: ‘All of this experience around remote consultations we’re having will improve the access arrangements longer term but to be able to do that consistently we need the ongoing investment in IT that is provided by CCGs.’

CCGs and NHS England must ‘step up their support’ for practices and provide more funding for IT infrastructure to enable this, Dr Vautrey said.

He said: ‘We need CCGs and NHS England to step up the support for practices because if they’re going to be much more reliant on their IT for consulting then it needs to be of sufficient quality to be able to support that in the long-term.’

‘Many’ practices are still working on Windows 7 and having ‘quite major problems with the speed of their IT equipment’, he added.

Around half of GPs reported that their ability to provide remote consultations had been limited by internet speed or bandwidth, hardware and software, and IT infrastructure, according to the survey.

However, Dr Vautrey added that he is concerned that as other parts of the healthcare system take up digital options, there could be a ‘knock-on’ effect of workload shifting into primary care.

He said: ‘As other bits of the health service increasingly use remote technology as well, we need to ensure that the knock-on consequence isn’t a shift of work inappropriately into general practice.’

For example, if patients attend outpatient appointments as remote consultations, the blood tests and investigations they might previously have had in the hospital risk being shifted into general practice, he added.

It comes as NHS England said that all staff working in GP practices should be enabled to work remotely ‘where possible’.

The BMA’s latest coronavirus survey findings:

  • 95% of GPs currently provide remote consultations for their patients

  • 88% believe greater use of remote consultations should be retained in the longer term

  • 77% believe the use of video technology for virtual MDTs, clinical team meetings and Medical Boards should be retained in the longer term

  • 51% say their ability to provide remote consultations for their patients has been limited by internet speed/bandwidth

  • 58% and 51% say it has been limited by IT hardware and software respectively

  • 55% say it has been limited by telecoms infrastructure

Source: BMA survey

Readers' comments (18)

  • Loss of the healing touch.

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  • WHAT DO PATIENTS WANT?

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  • Patients are loving having at least 5 telephone consultations before they actually get seen! All the previous studies have proven that it worsens health inequalities and doesn’t reduce workload. Who would want to be a GP these days just to be a call centre worker all day? Any of you folks spend the entire day on the telephone in medical school?

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  • 9 in 10.
    Just exactly who has been asked? That does not reflect the views of my colleagues or other GPs local to where I am.
    Telephone triage satisfies the circumstances for now, but unlikely to help long term health needs.

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  • Covid is going no where fast wait till the second wave hits.Flattening the curve mean prolonging the agony.There is no vaccine coming in the next 2 years.2 years a lot of us will have had enough by then.

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  • 100% Digital driving me to retirement. The loss of face to face will come back to haunt in the future with rising medico-legal claims in my opinion.

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  • Remote consultations a current necessary evil. But they are inefficient, time consuming, technology dependent. 20 remote consultations whether telephonically or accu Rx take longer than 20 face to face ever did. The most efficient model is that of leaving the logistics of getting to us to the patient. We will undoubtedly use the technology as an adjunct to our face to face services, but as the bulk? I don't think so. What about those significant occasions when face to face allows us to spot pathologies unrelated to patient presenting problems? What about real human interaction? What about 'the laying on of hands'? What about the art of General Practice? If this is the brave new world, I am signing off and retreating off grid without a shadow of doubt.

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  • Remote consultations are the future - take Babylon as an example. Fast, convenient access to health care. Rarely is that much information gained by laying hands on skin. Video consultations add a visual dimension if needed. If someone is ill you will refer them regardless of performing the pantomime of examining them. Of course, you can't do this at medical school - you have to learn how to do it through years of practical experience, but once learnt it is a useful and appreciated skill going forward. Covid is here to stay, so we must forget the old ways and think of new ones.

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  • Do they really.
    Well, I want to continue my retirement plans for the future.
    Good luck to the sheeple having fun thinking about 25 ways of working in a dead end job.

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  • We have had good IT function so have been able to incorporate remote consultations within our working day and I have enjoyed the option of using it and mixing it into F2F when required.
    It has made all of us really reflect on when an examination is needed and why we are doing it.
    Long term it’s hard to predict what GP land will be like.
    I think it will break in the winter when the incidence of pyrexial illness increases and the quick mopping up of extras that the current system relies on to survive will be decimated by the increased consultation time that donning PPE will bring. Maybe remote working will help us avoid this.
    The additional staff through the PCN recruitment strategy have even less experience of the risk carrying of remote working which will also decimate the predicted capacity we all hoped they would add.
    I am worried long term for us and we will need a contract that takes work away from us very soon which we clearly have never achieved recently.

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