NHS: How rapid fall of face-to-face doctor appointments is ‘huge benefit’ for patients

The number of in-person doctor appointments has dropped from 70 percent to 23 percent within weeks of lockdown, and remains low despite the easing, according to a new report by the Royal College of General Practitioners. This has sparked concern over people with non-coronavirus related illnesses not being diagnosed in good time. However, Rupert Spiegelberg, CEO of Doctorlink, the leading triage provider for the NHS, has told Express.co.uk that there are actually “huge benefits” to be gained.

He said: “We have to link at two things. One is now, which is a very specific point in time where there’s a lot of anxiety in the world around COVID.

“Secondly, is the future and how our behaviour patterns are going to evolve as we go forward.

“What’s been happening now is clearly a mix of two things.

“One is that primary healthcare providers have been requesting patients not to come in and not to have face-to-face appointments.”

Mr Spiegelberg continued: “In fact, that’s been advisory right from the top, from Public Health England.

“Then they have been talking to their patients on video call or telephone and so on.

“But at some point, that will change and we’ll move back to a more normal world.

“As we go forward, what is that normal world going to look like?”

The expert added: “Is it going to look like what was happening six or seven months ago? I don’t think it will.

“I think, first of all, people see the huge benefits of more effective triage within the system.

“GPs in the primary healthcare system are seeing that huge benefit, and patients are also seeing quite a significant benefit of not having to take half a day off work to head down to the surgery to wait for half an hour and get your ten-minute slot if there’s something wrong with you.”

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Mr Spiegelberg told Express.co.uk: “So both sides of that coin are benefiting significantly from this change.

“The number of appointments has gone down and also the ratio of face-to-face to telephone or video consultations have flipped on their head.

“Pre-COVID it was about 20 percent telephone or video consultation and 80 percent face-to-face. Now it’s the opposite.

“The real benefit to the healthcare system is the incredible benefits that accrue to both sides.

“Healthcare providers like the NHS are really having their online banking moment where they realise that the benefits of these technologies can enable them to offer a much better service.”

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