Online consultations do not necessarily reduce workload for GPs, says College

Publication date: 23 November 2017

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study funded by The National Institute for Health Research, which found online consultations might not be the answer to reducing GP workload and cutting patient waiting times.

She said: "GPs and our teams have always made the most of new technology in our ongoing quest to provide the best care possible for our patients.

"General practice was the first sector of the NHS to implement both electronic patient records and electronic prescribing, and we will continue to explore how using new technology in practice can benefit our patients & and that will include through online consultations, which many practices across the country are already implementing in some form.

"When used effectively, technology can be hugely beneficial, but new innovations must be implemented in the best interests of patients as a whole - and in ways that alleviate pressures across the NHS, not potentially add to them. It's a myth to say that because we are making greater use of technology that we must be saving resources.

"This study shows that many of our patients still want to see a GP face-to-face after going online, or to call their local practice to speak to someone about their symptoms. This is not reducing GP workload, or even effectively triaging patients.

"Online consultations, via a smartphone or otherwise, can be great for some patients, but they won't not be suitable for others - and they don't necessarily reduce workload for GPs. If practices do choose to offer them, then it should be using approaches known to be safe and secure and be provided in addition to traditional services, not instead of them."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633/7410
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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