Following your recent coverage around the challenges of GPs providing face-to-face care, to understand the argument for and against remote services, the public need to be informed first about the day-to-day reality in doctors’ surgeries or hospitals for that matter.
The statistics disclosed by Dr Deborah Livesey of Skipton (dealing with 300 patients a day, working hours from 8am until after 7.30 pm) are difficult to appreciate without knowing who actually deals with 300 patients – doctors, nurses or receptionists and their numbers; whether all doctors communicate or see patients from early mornings to late evenings continually throughout the year from home or surgery; and doctors’ remunerations and benefits for such workloads.
Well planned remote services can be highly beneficial to all concerns – patients, doctors, and the public purse holders.
However, the service is not without limitations and drawbacks. For example, most patients may end up being contacted more than once before seeing face to face for the same complaint. This happened to me twice at a highly regarded GP practice, and once at the local musculoskeletal centre.
Consequently, more time and money are spent and potential for misdiagnosis and suffering cannot be underestimated.
Further, most if not all remote service providers expect patients to take the entire day off work and sit next to a phone waiting for the doctor’s call. Moreover, it is not easy to describe one’s own physical signs on the phone, and video technology, in its current format, can easily miss subtle signs of problems.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to suspect that the majority, if not all, first consultations are better undertaken face to face, while follow-up consultations are mostly carried out via phone or video as thought appropriate.