If face to face GP appointments are replaced by Skype will it further isolate people who are housebound?


Trevor Brocklebank, chief executive of Home Instead Senior Care

Andrew Graley, healthcare director at Polycom EMEA, a provider of video conferencing equipment

Poll: If face to face GP appointments are replaced by Skype will it further isolate people who are housebound?




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The Government’s plans to replace face to face GP appointments with consultations on Skype or iPads but there is the fear that it could increase the isolation and loneliness felt by those who are housebound.

Trevor Brocklebank is worried the Government will bring in reforms that will “end up costing the NHS more money and introduce unnecessary stress to our older population”.

He said: “It is true that our older population are proportionately greater users of healthcare owing to their greater physiological and social vulnerabilities. Our healthcare systems need to accommodate this and we need to look for age-appropriate ways for our older population to get medical support.

“Speaking on behalf of our older clients I would say that the introduction of new technology to the consultation process (patients being ‘seen’ over a computer screen) might alienate some older people who are not comfortable with new technologies and be impossible for others who don’t have the necessary equipment so this is obviously a concern.”

However he added: “On the positive side, those with mobility issues might welcome the idea of a consultation at home and the cost-saving aspect will be a real benefit for anyone on a tight budget who would have to use public transport or a taxi to attend an appointment.

“My biggest concern is that a face-to-face appointment is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to engage with their patients and, perhaps, spot a different or bigger problem. The experience of our caregivers tells me that elderly people often play down a health concern that only a friendly chat will draw out of them.

“Telephone and online consultations have their place, as does involvement and triage by practice nurses who are often fantastic people to deal with our older population, but the health minister needs to proceed with caution so that elderly and vulnerable people are not discouraged from seeking appointments with their doctor.”


Mr Graley believes criticism of the reforms is down to fear of change.

He says: “People like to stick with the familiar, so it’s no surprise that for many of us, the initial reaction is to reject Jeremy Hunt’s initiative. At the same time, telemedicine has already proven to be a key element in improving healthcare and patient treatment.

“For example, NHS Surrey’s telestroke system has reduced patients’ in hospital time from 30 to three days on average.”

He added: Of course we can’t deny the fact that not everyone is technology savvy, but this shouldn’t hold us back. Those who struggle to use video calling should receive appropriate training, and to be regularly checked upon to ensure they can easily get in touch with a nurse or GP when the need arises.

“Health authorities also need to make sure that the technology people have to use is easy-to-navigate and delivers quality user experience.

“In ten years’ time telemedicine will become the norm, just like smartphones and tablet computers we couldn’t imagine a decade ago. Today, we can either resist progress, or help people adjust to the new reality and start reaping the benefits for patients and the economy right here, right now.”


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