NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, said today that general practice medicine would in the future be accessed virtually. With Patients being able to access ‘face-face consultation from their smartphones or tablets. In an interview with The Financial Times, Stevens said that the practice of reporting for a physical appointment with GP was ‘alien’ to many in their 20s and 30s.
He said that the NHS will look to pioneer this new health service model in new towns, like Ebbsfleet in Kent, and in high population growth areas like Tower Hamlets. Mr Stevens told the Financial Times these towns would start with ‘the default assumption that digital interaction will be the main way that people will interact with the health service’.
He said that rather than registering with a GP, patients would sign on to: ‘the virtual primary care service, and then… rather than booking an appointment, just be able to call up a doctor or a nurse on [their] iPhone, and have the face-to-face interaction there’. He added: ‘The idea of booking appointments and physically turning up to GP surgeries for routine things is an alien concept’.
This to me is a move, which I would not welcome. For drop-ins and out of hours services to keep people from needlessly going to A&E that is a good move, but there should always be an actual human element in general practice. Communities need to have trust in their GPs so that when they have real problem, they who they can go to and confide in discreetly. I know from personal experience that during a crisis, a GP who you know is far easier to speak to than someone on screen.
I know for certain that during my crisis, I would have just avoided all the calls and the prompts. That would have delayed or even derailed finding a resolution, and I would not like to imagine the consequences of that course of action. With the general election looming, all the talk around the NHS seems to be about Hospital provision and not so much on general practice. If we serious about building a lasting model for the NHS, I don’t think we can afford to underestimate the role of general practice in communities.