This site is intended for health professionals only

#GPnews: Artificial intelligence to replace call handlers in NHS 111 app

16:15 A practice that was set to close in a week has been handed a lifeline as the Health and Social Care board has found another provider according to the Belfast Telegraph. The closure was set to leave the town of Portadown in Northern Ireland with no general practice. However, the Health and Social Care board has found a GP contractor to take over running of the practice from March 2017.

In the interim, from 16 January to early March, the Health and Social Care Board will manage the practice.

The practice with 5,200 patients currently only has one GP who resigned in December with the other practices in the town having an emergency meeting two weeks ago to apply for temporary list closure.

11:10 An analysis of official figures by the Nuffield Trust has revealed that a third of hospital trusts in England issued alerts warning they needed urgent action to cope with the pressure of patient numbers last month.

The BBC reports that seven of the 50 trusts that issued alerts declared they were unable to give patients comprehensive care.

Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme that patients in affected hospitals could face delays in receiving pain relief and antibiotics.

‘We entered this winter in the worst state of affairs possible… Staff are working at the very limit of their capabilities.’

09:30 The NHS 111 service in London is trialling a new app for users, which replaces a call handler asking questions with an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, the Telegraph reported yesterday afternoon.

The app, developed by tech company Babylon Health – which already offers £25 private video GP consultations – sees the user inputting their symptoms prompting follow-up questions from the chatbot.

At the end of the exchange, the app advises the patient how to proceed to care for themselves or access NHS services.

09:15 The GPC has reiterated its concern over the new alternative, voluntary GP contract, the framework for which was published by NHS England in December.

In guidance published on the new contract, the GPC said: ‘Whilst supporting the principles of integrated care, the GPC remains concerned by the apparent longer-term movement away from the national GMS contract and continues to believe that the key aims of the MCP contract can be met within the existing framework and protections of the national GMS contract.’

The GPC is also concerned that ‘an MCP contract is likely to be required to go through an open procurement process’, which it says ‘raises the very real prospect of general practice being outsourced to private corporate entities via MCPs, with no guarantee that such an open procurement process will result in local GP led organisations winning the resultant contract’.

The guidance says: ‘This has already been the case for a number of large NHS community contractors who are now managed by commercial companies and it is reasonable to assume that this could also be the ultimate outcome for MCPs.

‘In such a situation local practices would potentially find themselves set in competition for patients against the emerging MCP body commissioned by NHS England to provide a much wider service than available through traditional general practice.’

Read the full GPC guidance here

Seen something interesting? Email or tweet @pulsetoday with the hashtag #GPnews