A clear take away from COVID is that GPs work well with less bureaucracy, says RCGP

Publication date: 30 July 2020

Responding to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s speech on the future of healthcare, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs and our teams have been working hard throughout the pandemic delivering care to patients with both COVID and non-COVID conditions. We’ve seen a remarkable shift in the way we’ve worked - a shift that pre-pandemic would have been considered aspirational at best, so it is encouraging that the Secretary of State is keen to learn from this for the future.

"Mr Hancock’s acknowledgement of the need to cut regulation and reduce bureaucracy in primary care is welcomed. A move away from 'tick box bureaucracy' to having higher trust in the profession is something the College has been calling for, for some time.

"Throughout the pandemic GPs and our teams have shown they can be trusted to deliver safe patient care without spending hours ticking boxes to prove it. The College’s latest survey of members, published today, shows that GPs have found the reduction in bureaucracy - for example, preparations for CQC inspections and that necessitated by QOF - has led to having more time with patients, and their ability to deliver better quality care. 
"Mr Hancock is also keen for GPs and our teams to continue making greater use of technology post-pandemic, and the College is too, to an extent, and as long as it is safe. We should remember that the changes were made out of necessity - to keep our patients and our teams safe and to help stop the spread of COVID-19. While there is a compelling case to retain some aspects of the different ways we’ve been working, we certainly do not want to see general practice become a totally remote service. 
"A totally, or even predominantly, remote general practice service wouldn’t be in anybody’s best interests long-term, and throughout the pandemic face to face appointments have been facilitated when they’ve been necessary. Remote consultations have benefits - they can be convenient for patients, and GPs have reported they have found them to be an efficient way of delivering care - but there are some things that simply can’t be done remotely, for example, when a physical examination is necessary or for a vaccination. Many patients also prefer seeing their GP in person, and many GPs prefer this too, particularly for patients with complex health needs who really value the relationship-based care that GPs excel at delivering. 
"We agree with Mr Hancock that it’s important we learn from how we have been working during the pandemic - and what we want to be able to do in general practice is offer patients a choice of how they access our services to best suit their health needs and preferences.

"In the near future, we expect there will be a significant influx of patients with lingering ‘long COVID’ symptoms, as well as those who put off seeking help during the pandemic for fear of catching the virus. GPs and our teams are also working hard to prepare for a busy winter, and potential second wave of COVID-19, so it’s vital we have the necessary resources and support to care to be able to do this and deliver the care our patients need."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7494/7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 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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