The independent London newspaper

Support doctors in calling for better systems

07 August, 2020

‘No patient would know their doctor, and no doctor would know their patient’

• YOUR correspondent (This online GP consultation is dangerous, July 30) is not happy with eConsult.

Health secretary Matt Hancock wants to move all GP consultations online (“remote by default”) because surgeries closed their doors to avoid spreading coronavirus.

He skates over the fall in number of consultations – halved at peak lockdown – and the fact that most were by phone, not video call.

Worse, he disregards the evidence that patients have resisted his previous efforts to establish online systems – only 30 per cent registered in north central London for appointments and prescriptions, despite years of policy fiats like the NHS Long Term Plan.

The current crisis must not be taken as the opportunity for central government to commodify our general practice, saddling patients and doctors with yet more inefficient national systems run by unaccountable private contractors.

As with Covid-19 testing, this could push hands-on medical consultations to specialist centres, and leave primary health care to a cadre of telephone doctors, based anywhere. No patient would know their doctor, and no doctor would know their patient.

The Royal College of General Practice estimate that half consultations still need to be face-to-face.

We need to support our doctors in calling for much better systems to protect those with complex health needs, higher vulnerability and least online confidence. At some point, that could apply to each of us.

North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group has promised to maintain the local patient, resident and clinical voice in commissioning and reduce health inequalities.

Patients need to hear how they will help local general practices maintain telephone access, urgent response, continuity of care, and patient voice.



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