Online appointments the future of the NHS, says expert
Technology is key to the future of GP services as part of a drive to decrease face-to-face appointments in the years to come, a health expert has said.
The influence of technology is already beginning to be felt in the NHS and Dr Helen Hibbs, accountable officer at Wolverhampton's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), believes it has a crucial role to play in easing pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals.
NHS apps are already available and will be further utilised over the next few years as part of a push to provide primary care online in the first instance.
Dr Hibbs was speaking as the CCG considers whether to close Tettenhall Medical Practice's Wood Road branch, amid a huge backlash locally.
She said: "We need to make sure we make use of all the modern technology. We're working particularly hard on our digital strategy to make sure patients can access surgeries in different ways.
"There are video options now coming into play - 19 or 20 of our practices have video consultations that they're working with, there's an NHS app that we're working with all our GP practices on, to make sure they individualise their response to the NHS app.
"So yes there's this branch surgery consultation that people are very concerned about, and I absolutely hear those concerns, but we must make sure that we work with our GP colleagues, we make sure GPs want to work in Wolverhampton, we make it a good job that they can do and we aid them with all the technology.
"We have to work with GPs and we have to listen to GPs because if we didn't have our GP colleagues we wouldn't have a GP service at all. It's really important we listen from both sides."
She added: "Obviouly there will always be a place for face-to-face consultation with another person but we've seen an inexorable rise in demand for primary care services."
While the rise of technology in the NHS might be a daunting prospect for some of the older generation, Dr Hibbs said there was evidence many people were keen to make use of it.
She added: "We also know there are a group of people who don't always want to go to the surgery who are willing and wish for an online solution rather than a face-to-face solution. Those people who want an online solution should be offered it so that then frees up valuable appointments for people who want a face-to-face appointment."
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