Digital GP Appointments – How Are They Going To Work?
GP and hospital appointments will be going digital as part of the plans outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan. According to the plan, there will also be a huge reduction in the amount of GP and hospital appointments, with patients being offered video consultations first. It’s a move that has long been discussed for the future of the NHS, but how will digital GP appointments work?
Are digital GP appointments the answer?
Over the next five years, digital GP appointments could replace up to a third of hospital appointments. The move could also see patients receiving their appointments via their smart devices through Skype. The move is expected to ease the pressure faced by hospitals by reducing the amount of people visiting their nearest hospital for A&E appointments, etc. Consultations could soon be offered via the NHS App, which was expected to be launched in 2018 with the ability to book GP appointments online, although this has been delayed.
The move would provide new flexibility to patients, and could save the NHS up to £1bn a year. However, there are concerns around how some would be able to benefit from this service, including those who are elderly or vulnerable who may not be able to use technology in this way. Access could also be an issue, particularly in areas where there is poor connectivity.
Practices are being told that they will need to provide online/video consultations by 2023, which means many practices are having to switch systems to ensure patients records are available across the Government’s new system.
A solution for missed appointments?
Digital GP appointments are being seen as a solution to the missed appointments problem that is facing many practices across the country. Missed doctors appointments come at a cost of around £216m a year to the NHS, with each missed appointment valued at around £30. The cost equates to:
- The annual salary of 2,325 full time GPs
- 224,640 cataract operations
- 58,320 hip replacement operations
- 216,000 drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s
- The annual salary of 8,424 full-time community nurses
It is hoped that digital appointments could reduce this cost, with patients having easy access to appointments from their homes or when they’re on the move.
What do doctors think?
As with all new ways of working, some concerns have been expressed, including concerns over staffing the service. Experts believe that the Long Term Plan could be difficult to fulfil, and that existing staff shortages could hamper efforts for community care and general practice in delivering additional services to patients.
It’s hoped that some practices will be able to roll out digital appointments this year, with some patients in London already being able to experience digital appointments via Babylon – a service which the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, is himself a patient of. Despite the concerns , it seems that the NHS could indeed go digital later on this year.
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