The NHS will actively encourage GPs to offer patients online consultations in plans that ‘open the spectre’ of 24/7 GP access, the medical director of the NHS has said.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said that ministers will be looking into how to offer patients online consultations in a move toward 24-hour GP access as part of the Government’s IT revolution.
Speaking at en event last week to launch a call for smartphone apps for use in the NHS, Sir Bruce said: ‘I am looking at how we can put levers into the system to encourage doctors to do online consultations’
‘Once you have online consultations, it breaks down geographical boundaries. It opens up the spectre of 24/7 access.’
Dr Shaibal Roy, an adviser to the NHS Future Forum on the information strategy consultation, said: ‘I have every expectation that the information and technology used by the public in their day to day life to make life easier and more convenient, will be an area of detailed discussion in the information workgroup for the NHS Future Forum. I can’t imagine it not being if we are going to make realistic recommendations about how to make information more useful for the public.’
‘I really welcome that Sir Bruce has raised this question, it’s the sort of issue that leads to open debate and challenge. If Doctors use Twitter or LinkedIn for example, for educational purposes, it is possible to learn about how colleagues think these services could be used.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, warned online access of this type could leave patients frustrated.
‘There is scope for initiatives like this. But we would be concerned that it could translate to more frustration for patients. People are already concerned that they are spending less time with their GP and we wouldn’t want this to be a way of reducing that further. It should always be the choice of the individual.’