Remote GP services should not become the norm

GENERAL practice post-lockdown must offer a range of access options or risk isolating some patients, says the chair of the Royal College of GPs.

In a recent statement, Professor Martin Marshall points out that before lockdown to prevent spread of COVID-19 around a quarter of GP appointments were conducted remotely with 70 per cent face-to-face, but now these percentages have reversed with approximately 70 per cent of GP appointments being carried out via video or telephone.

Professor Marshall further comments: "Many patients have been receptive to the changes in how general practice services have been delivered during the pandemic, and both patients and GPs understand the extraordinary reasons for these changes. We also know some people find remote consultations more convenient than going to a surgery, but remote consultations don’t work for everyone - some patients, particularly those with complex needs, tell us that they prefer seeing their doctor in person

"As we move out of lockdown, we need to be able to offer a range of access options for patients to suit their needs and preferences. It is in no one’s interest for general practice to become a largely remote service as that will run the risk of isolating some patients, for example those with complex needs as well as our less tech-savvy patients and those who don’t have access to the appropriate tech - this in turn risks exacerbating health inequalities.

"The way in which GPs switched to a largely remote service has been remarkable, and it has played an important part in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. But moving forward, we envisage more of a balance in the way people access general practice services, perhaps with 50 per cent face-to-face and 50 per cent remote appointments. This seems realistic and sensible."

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