Online consultations need careful consideration, says RCGP

Publication date: 30 January 2018

Responding to a study published on electronic alternatives to face-to-face consultations with GPs in the British Journal of General Practice, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Innovative use of technology must continue to be explored in general practice, as long as it is safe, effective and leads to better outcomes for our patients, the GP practice and the NHS as a whole. Patient safety must be paramount in any clinical consultations.

"Many GP practices are already offering online consultations in some form, and we know that they are convenient for some patients. However, we also know – and this research backs this up – that they don’t necessarily help to alleviate workload pressures on GPs, or improve access to general practice services for patients.

"Online and telephone consultations can be great for some patients, but they won't be suitable for others – and if practices do choose to offer them, then it should be as one way to access GP services, not the only way.

"We agree with the researchers that any practices thinking about alternatives to face-to-face consultations should do so after careful consideration of the implications for the practice and patients, and to this end the College is developing guidance on this. If this route to consulting with patients is being considered by a practice, practice policies must be developed carefully, agreed by all in the practice, and followed to ensure patient safety."

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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