GP appointments ‘should be by phone or video’

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The NHS 111 service has seen a huge rise in demand because of the pandemic

People should have phone or video consultations with their doctors unless there is a clinical reason not to, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says.

He said there had been a “hugely positive” response to virtual appointments during the coronavirus pandemic.

They had worked particularly well in rural areas, he said.

But Mr Hancock said people unable to log-in or who need emergency care would still be seen in person.

He told a meeting of the Royal College of Physicians: “From now on, all consultations should be tele-consultations unless there’s a compelling clinical reason not to.

“Of course if there is an emergency, the NHS will be waiting and ready to see you in person, just as it always has been.

“But if they are able to, patients should get in contact first via the web or by calling in advance.

“That way, care is easier to manage and the NHS can deliver a much better service.

“Not only will it make life quicker and easier for patients but free up clinicians to concentrate on what really matters.”

‘Not suitable for everyone’

Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the increase in phone and online consultations during the pandemic had happened “out of necessity” and they could be an “efficient way of delivering care to patients”.

But he said doctors were already seeing more patients want to have face-to-face appointments.

He added: “Remote consultations, whether by telephone or video, won’t be suitable or preferable for everyone, and that certainly isn’t what the college is suggesting.

“Once more normal service resumes in general practice – and we await official guidance on this – patients who want face to face appointments will be able to have them.

“We want patients to be able to access GP services in the way that is best for them and best meets their health needs.”

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