Are GP's becoming an endangered species?
When the Covid lockdowns were first introduced, GP Surgeries were quick to close, ending face-to-face consultations. Leading up to this point it had already become increasingly difficult to arrange a Doctor’s appointment within what many would deem to be a reasonable timescale. Things haven’t improved much since we emerged from the lockdown period with GP’s still seemingly reluctant to fully return to normal. There is evidence of People waiting up to 2 weeks to see their GP which is not very satisfactory1. Then last month I received this text message from my own GP Surgery:
Dear MR. BLAKE,
As from today, we are using a new system called eConsult for booking non-urgent appointments. Patients will be able to submit a request, via a form on our website, allowing you to list your symptoms and concerns. This will be reviewed by a GP, and you will receive a reply within 48 hours. Please see our website for the link, and more information.
So what is eConsult?
On their website2 it explains:
eConsult is a clever bit of software that allows you to quickly and safely get help and advice from your own doctors and GP practice online, for free, from anywhere.
eConsult is a form-based online consultation & triage platform the collects your medical or administrative request and sends it through to your GP practice to triage and decide on the right care for you and everyone else.
It boasts that it is already “live” in over 3200 Surgeries so the chances are your GP Surgery has either signed up or is about to sign up too. Below you can watch their promotional video.
I can see so many potential problems with this but hey, let’s give it a chance. So it claims this can be used anywhere, anytime from any device so I tried to use it at 11 pm on a Monday night and this is what I received!
Mmm not a great start. It also claims your GP will respond within “1 working day or sooner” but my Practice said 48 hours. Having spoken to People who have used this service they tell me in their experience they still hadn’t had a response after 48 hours!
This also begs the question of whether these online forms are being triaged by a Doctor, Nurse or A.I.?
If it’s A.I. how comfortable will People be to accept prescription medication from it?
So many questions, very few answers.
It strikes me that many GP’s have been quite willing to offload their responsibilities to local A+E Departments and now coupled with this initiative they should be careful they do not become the proverbial Turkeys voting for Christmas! After all, if People get out of the habit of consulting their GP but instead start using alternative routes to access healthcare, the question then arises, who needs them? Over recent times an accusation could be leveled that many have had no time for face-to-face appointments but found plenty of time to administer jabs!
Maybe time for a re-think?
I am thankful I have not had cause to visit my GP for over a decade now (he probably thinks I’m dead) preferring instead to adopt the prevention is better than cure approach. I also believe that self-care will become much more prominent over the next few years as certain truths emerge.
We are certainly living in changing times but some of these changes are not always for the better.
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