Matt Hancock: GP tele-consultations should be default unless reason not to

All GP appointments should be through tele-consultations unless there is a need for a face-to-face appointment, Matt Hancock has said during a speech at the Royal College of Physicians event.

In a speech talking about the future of healthcare, the presentation highlighted some of the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic, Hancock said “we’ve discovered things about our system that we could not have learned in normal times.”

He mentioned how the system performed under conditions of severe, sustained nationwide pressure and the benefits of frontline professionals having greater freedom to make decisions.

He said “we are carefully restoring our healthcare system, and as we do so, we must not fall back into bad old habits. Instead, we need to take what we’ve learned, and build back better, capturing a culture that’s open to collaboration and change.”

“We work better when we work together, it doesn’t have to take weeks and months to change anything, no matter how small and innovation is not about coming up with the idea, it’s about having the backing and the permission to make the change.”

In the speech Hancock covered 7 key cultural lessons learned, one focusing on technology:

“We want to double down on the huge advances we’ve made in technology within NHS and social care. Because it’s not really about technology, it’s about people.”

“So to promote collaboration and change, we need more transparency, better use of data, more interoperability, and the enthusiastic adoption of technological innovation that can improve care.”

“This crisis has shown that patients and clinicians alike, not just the young, want to use technology.”

“And when it comes to their healthcare, whether they’re digital natives or digital converts, they don’t want to have to sit around in a waiting room if that service can come to them at home.”

“In the 4 weeks leading up to 12 of April this year, 71% of routine GP consultations were delivered remotely, with about 26% face to face. In the same period a year ago, this was reversed: 71% face to face and 25% remotely.”

“Now of course there always has to be a system for people who can’t log on. But we shouldn’t patronise older people by saying they don’t do tech.”

“So from now on, all consultations should be teleconsultations unless there’s a compelling clinical reason not to. Of course, if there’s an emergency, the NHS will be ready and waiting to see you in person – just as it always has been.”