IF YOU’VE seen those ads on TV offering you a virtual doctor’s appointment by video chat and thought “that makes sense”, then good news because the NHS has begun a trial of the service.
Previously only available to private patients, a pilot has begun rolling out to 3.5 million patients in Greater London in association with existing doctor app Babylon.
Once you download the app, you “triage” yourself with a questionnaire, and if appropriate, you see a doctor by video call within two hours. If you need medicine, the prescription is sent electronically to your nominated pharmacy. If the doctor needs to see you, you’ll be given an appointment at one of five Central London locations.
There is a slight catch in that you will become a patient of one of the five surgeries that are operating the scheme, instead of your existing GP/ All of your medical records will be transferred to the new practice, so once you move, you stay moved.
There are, inevitably, concerns about the service. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) says the scheme isn’t really suitable for complex health conditions and may actually increase local GP workload.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the RCGP told the BBC: “We are really worried that schemes like this are creating a twin-track approach to NHS general practice and that patients are being ‘cherry-picked’, which could actually increase the pressures on traditional GPs based in the community.
“We understand that with increasingly long waiting times to see a GP, an online service is convenient and appealing, but older patients and those living with more complex needs want continuity of care and the security of their local practice where their GPs know them.”
The other concern raised is the issue of medical records. With the NHS still using large amounts of paper records that can take up to two months to transfer between surgeries, if you try the service and realise it’s not for you, switching back could take months.
Electronic records aren’t standardised and there are still questions over security.
The service is not suitable for mental health conditions, pregnancy and for infirmity, which is a big chunk of a GP’s daily workload.
On the plus side, after 50 years, someone’s actually found a use for video calling. µ
Source : Inquirer