Though Baw acknowledges there is a risk that some cues could be
missed remotely, he insists patients are usually triaged more quickly
during a telephone consultation. He has sent several directly to A&E,
saving them time which would have been wasted should they have had to
attend a GP appointment first.
Remote consultations may not be perfect but they allow practices
without any spare physical space to employ more staff or recruit GPs
from better-served areas.
And anything that improves the work-life balance for GPs is largely
viewed as welcome, given that increasing numbers are leaving the
profession – many citing burnout.
“I would argue that, under the traditional system, we didn’t provide as good a service to people who have work or caring responsibilities as to those who are retired or unemployed,” says Dr Marcus Baw, a GP in York and an expert on technology in medicine. “If you’re working a shift or have children to drop at school, you cannot phone up at 8am to book an appointment – and you often can’t get out of work to attend one.
“By introducing remote consultations, what we’ve done is improve the service and redistribute it more fairly. But whenever you do that, some people will feel it is being skewed away from benefitting them. There is a certain demographic who are very shouty about it.”
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