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Nine in 10 GPs want to continue with remote consultations after coronavirus

Nine in 10 GPs want to carry on delivering consultations remotely after the coronavirus pandemic has ended, a BMA survey has found.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that this could ‘improve access’ and ‘reduce the need’ for home visits in the future.

The latest BMA coronavirus survey found that 88% of GPs think a ‘greater use of remote consultations’ should be retained in the long-term.

More than three-quarters of the 2,500 respondents also said the use of video technology for virtual multi-disciplinary teams, clinical team meetings, and Medical Boards should continue.

Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘This will reduce the need for physical home visits to some extent although it won’t remove it entirely.

‘The way that practices provide support particularly to housebound patients or care home residents will see an increased use of video technology to improve access to various patients but also to reduce the travel times for clinicians going from their surgeries.

He added: ‘All of this experience around remote consultations we’re having will improve the access arrangements longer term but to be able to do that consistently we need the ongoing investment in IT that is provided by CCGs.’

CCGs and NHS England must ‘step up their support’ for practices and provide more funding for IT infrastructure to enable this, Dr Vautrey said.

He said: ‘We need CCGs and NHS England to step up the support for practices because if they’re going to be much more reliant on their IT for consulting then it needs to be of sufficient quality to be able to support that in the long-term.’

‘Many’ practices are still working on Windows 7 and having ‘quite major problems with the speed of their IT equipment’, he added.

Around half of GPs reported that their ability to provide remote consultations had been limited by internet speed or bandwidth, hardware and software, and IT infrastructure, according to the survey.

However, Dr Vautrey added that he is concerned that as other parts of the healthcare system take up digital options, there could be a ‘knock-on’ effect of workload shifting into primary care.

He said: ‘As other bits of the health service increasingly use remote technology as well, we need to ensure that the knock-on consequence isn’t a shift of work inappropriately into general practice.’

For example, if patients attend outpatient appointments as remote consultations, the blood tests and investigations they might previously have had in the hospital risk being shifted into general practice, he added.

It comes as NHS England said that all staff working in GP practices should be enabled to work remotely ‘where possible’.

The BMA’s latest coronavirus survey findings:

  • 95% of GPs currently provide remote consultations for their patients

  • 88% believe greater use of remote consultations should be retained in the longer term

  • 77% believe the use of video technology for virtual MDTs, clinical team meetings and Medical Boards should be retained in the longer term

  • 51% say their ability to provide remote consultations for their patients has been limited by internet speed/bandwidth

  • 58% and 51% say it has been limited by IT hardware and software respectively

  • 55% say it has been limited by telecoms infrastructure

Source: BMA survey

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