Health secretary calls for non-urgent GP consultations to be conducted remotely
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said that patients should have phone or video consultations with their GP unless there is a clinical requirement for a face-to-face appointment.
Hancock said that virtual consultations had worked well in rural parts of the country and said that they had generally received a “positive” response during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He stressed that in emergency circumstances and where people are unable to log into online systems, then care should still be provided on an in-person basis.
Speaking at the Royal College of Physicians, Hancock said: "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."
The health secretary added that the NHS “cannot and will not revert back to before”, urging a transition toward what he called "Zoom medicine".
Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Martin Marshall, said that the increased rate of virtual consultations which came out of necessity during the pandemic could work as an “efficient way of delivering care to patients”, but doctors were having to grapple with more and more patients who preferred an in-person consultation.
Prof Marshall said: "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."