Can technology help to overcome GP crisis?

As Royal College warns of 'unacceptable delays' in GP waiting times, technology providers reveal solutions are already available that could help

Technological innovations available today could help solve the GP crisis, experts claim.

The Royal College of GPs last week revealed that severe staff shortages are causing ‘unacceptable’ delays for patients across England.

And, in a letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, its chairman, Professor Martin Marshall, called on ministers to take urgent action to address the problem.

He said GPs were struggling with an escalating workload, which is causing many to burn out and leave the profession.

And problem is compounded by difficulty recruiting GPs and other members of staff to manage the demand.

Although the Government has said it has recruited a ‘record number’ of GP trainees, it will take at least five years for them to be practising full time.

And, in the meantime, technology suppliers say there are innovations already available that could help to prevent the crisis from worsening.

Speaking to BBH, Matt Smith, director of public sector at Citrix, said: “We are once again reading about lengthy patient waits at a time when the population is ageing and demands on GPs are rising.

In appropriate circumstances, adopting a one-to-many approach, via technology, could help to ease a significant amount of burden on GPs and reduce the waiting times that are being reported today

“But there are several ways in which technology could help to bridge this gap.

“If shared NHS services became more-tightly co-ordinated via a secure, centralised, digital workspace; then decisions could be made more efficiently, without the GP needing to see a patient or act as the middleman.

“This would also help to create a better experience for patients, since they could also go direct to the NHS service they require, instead of via a GP first.”

Cloud-based and digital workspace technology is one way that could ease the volume of administration for GPs, enabling patients to self manage their personal data and information.

Smith said: “Web conferencing technology could allow GPs to run a virtual weekly clinic for certain conditions such as eczema in order to update patients on new developments in medication, alongside a focused Q&A.

“In appropriate circumstances, adopting a one-to-many approach, via technology, could help to ease a significant amount of burden on GPs and reduce the waiting times that are being reported today.

GPs make up a fundamental part of the NHS and are crucial to the world-leading healthcare services offered here in the UK – it is essential that we ensure they are accessible when needed

But, to drive these improvements will require a change of mindset, he warns.

“The introduction of new technologies always accompanies a challenge,” he added.

“With many GP partners nearing retirement age, to secure buy-in, it will be crucial the technology is usable and reliable, to match or exceed consumer-grade technology.

“GPs make up a fundamental part of the NHS and are crucial to the world-leading healthcare services offered here in the UK – it is essential that we ensure they are accessible when needed.

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