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Email consultations for all – whose policy is that?



By Ian Quinn

When is a policy document not a policy document? When it comes from the Liberal Democrats it appears.

Yesterday health spokesman Norman Lamb published what the party billed as a ‘liberal blueprint’ for the NHS. (Note the small ‘l’, as it could be significant)

Included are radical (with a capital ‘R’) plans for GPs to offer email and telephone consultations to all patients.

Ironically this is one Government IT scheme which has already been shelved by the Department of Health on the grounds it’s too expensive – ironic, that is, because Mr Lamb calls for the plug to be pulled on virtually everything else, including the national Summary Care Record, Choose and Book and, for good measure, Connecting for Health.

However, leave alone for the time being the fact that GPs are hugely reticent about the idea of offering email and phone consultations to all patients. (One GP told Pulse recently of his horror at the thought of an email from a patient with sudden chest pain accidently sitting in his spam box.)

No, the obvious weakness in the documents comes in the party’s introductory text. The proposals, we learn, are ‘not formal party policy but set out Norman Lamb’s vision of a genuinely decentralised NHS’.

Perhaps they’re waiting for something big to happen. Like a General Election campaign, perhaps.

The Liberal Democrats have called for all patients to be offered email consultations The Liberal Democrats have called for all patients to be offered email consultations