The chair of the RCGP has said that as many as half of GP consultations may be carried out remotely after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed.
In an interview with the BBC, Professor Martin Marshall estimated that only about 7-8% of GP consultations are currently being carried out face to face.
This comes as NHS England has advised practices to take a ‘total triage’ approach to patient consultations, meaning all patients should be assessed remotely before being offered a consultation online, via video or via telephone.
But Professor Marshall said that the result of the pandemic may be a completely different way of working.
He said: ‘I don’t see us doing all of our consultations over the phone or online, but certainly up to 50% is possible.’
Commenting to Healthcare Leader’s sister publication, Pulse, Professor Marshall said: ‘Patients generally seem to be responding positively to the new ways general practice is working that are probably unfamiliar to many, such as new triage systems and remote consultations. We’re grateful to them for their understanding about why we need to work differently during this time.
‘Evidence shows that the use of video consultations can be a viable alternative to face-to-face appointments, and they are useful at a time when everyone is working hard to adhere to social distancing advice.’
But he went on to warn that the change in working is not without its challenges to practices.
He said: ‘However, implementing wide-scale remote consulting is going to be more challenging for some practice than others – particularly given the pace at which general practice is having to make these changes.
‘Whilst some practices will have been doing this before to some degree, there remain resource and technical challenges to overcome, and some of these might be particularly difficult in remote and rural areas.’
His comments come as NHS England has told practices that they must have online systems in place supporting total triage by the end of the month, and video consultation systems by Friday 17 April.