Dr Ian Jackson, Medical Director and Clinical Safety Officer at Refero, urges the primary care sector to take up video consultations to help keep the GP workforce safe from COVID-19
The Emergency Coronavirus Bill, announced earlier this week, laid out plans to make it easier for retired GP to return to work during the UK COVID-19 outbreak. The government has explained that the emergency measures, which will be in place ‘for as long as required’, have been activated to deal with a significant level of challenge for the NHS over the coming months.
A number of GP practices in England have been trialling video consultation platforms in recent years; and in the coming months, it is likely that millions of patients will have face-to-face appointments with their GP replaced by telephone or video consultations under NHS plans to respond to the threat posed by the coronavirus.
Protection the workforce, as well as the public
Video calls give GPs time with people in need of their help and creates a new channel of communication between the doctor and patient, but what it also provides is much-needed protection.
With the Government currently only testing people for the virus once they have been admitted to hospital, video consultations could allow GPs to minimise the number of patients attending surgery. This brings benefits for both patients and practice staff, minimising footfall will be key to maintaining vital Primary Care Services and reducing risk in an area where cross-contamination could easily occur. The use of teleconsultation applies equally to those who potentially have COVID-19, and patients with other complaints that can be managed remotely.
Retired GPs coming back into the practice, many of whom will be over 60 years old, will find themselves in one of the risk categories. If those at risk are designated to undertake video consultations, they can support their practice in a safe manner.
Free video consultation platform
Refero is offering free usage of its video consultation platform to public sector bodies to support the UK response to COVID-19, allowing clinicians the platform to speak to patients within hours, remotely via mobile and desktop devices.
It’s very important that the public have access to medical professionals in the safest way possible for all of us, and video consultation is absolutely the best way to provide that. We feel very strongly that access to this should be immediate and free of charge to public services that are facing increased pressures currently.
Prior to the outbreak, many GP perceived video consultations as an additional extra. In the midst of this health crisis, we are, unfortunately, presented with a very real use case.