NHS England has said GP practices should have a video consultation system in place by Friday (17 April).
According to NHS England, this is ‘essential’ for the remote management of patients during the Covid-19 epidemic.
It also said GPs needed online consultation systems in place that supports the total triage approach by the end of the month.
NHS England and NHSX fast-tracked a tender process and selected 11 providers of online consultation systems at the end of last month.
The bulletin said: ‘Practices are reminded that as per our letter of 27 March, all practices should be remotely triaging all patient contacts. To support this, all practices must have an online consultation system in place that supports total triage.
‘While total triage can be done over the phone, this is less efficient and risks patients being unable to contact the practice if phone lines are busy.
‘Commissioners and practices are asked to ensure all practices have an online consultation system in place by the end of April 2020 at the latest.’
NHS England said GPs must also be able to consult patients via video, with a shorter deadline of the end of this week.
The bulletin said: ‘It is also essential that all practices have a video consultation system in place to support remote management of patients. This should be in place by 17 April 2020.’
However, speaking in a live webinar on Thursday evening, Dr Kanani clarified that this was not a ‘hard’ deadline.
NHSX has previously said GPs can use commercial software such as FaceTime and Skype if they don’t yet have access to NHS-approved video consultation software.
NHS England’s bulletin said 84% of practices already offer video consultations, while 49% offer online consultations.
‘These measures are helping to reduce avoidable footfall in practices, protect both patients and staff from the risks of infection, and enable practices to manage work more efficiently,’ it added.