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Better IT can reduce face-to-face GP appointments ‘by 30%’, NHS England claims

Better technology will help GPs reduce their face-to-face appointments by up to 30%, the deputy medical director at NHS England has claimed.

Dr Mike Bewick, warned that it would be expensive, but the other main barrier to increased technology – the low usage by very elderly patients – could be rectified.

The comments come the day before the health secretary has announced a £240m fund to ‘empower local clinicians and health services to come together and find innovative solutions for their patients’.

Speaking at the ‘Federations – the final frontier’ event, organised by Newham CCG and the RCGP yesterday, Dr Bewick said that by increasing access to good advice online, we could ‘transform the landscape of primary care’.

He told delegates: ‘I estimate that you could reduce the appointments that you would do face to face by up to 30%.

‘It would cost a lot of money. But if patients had access to the right advice online for many of the conditions we treat – especially the long-term and minor conditions – I think we could transform the landscape of primary care by doing that one thing well.’

He said much of opposition to more technology came from the problems associated with Connecting for Health, the previous Government’s project to increase the use of IT in the NHS.

‘This albatross around our neck was Connecting for Health,’ he said. ‘Not everything in Connecting for Health was bad. There was a lot of good ideas. We have to embrace the technology. We are many years on now from when we devised CfH.

‘The internet is many years on and used by just about everyone except the very elderly. But most very elderly people have carers, most have grandchildren who will do it for them. We have to stop patronising those areas of society that we feel will be disadvantaged. We just need to make it possible for them.’