“Please take a seat” may stop being the greeting of choice at GP surgeries as the NHS trials standing desks for doctors.
It is hoped that the standing appointments will make GPs an example of good practice for patients and help both patient and doctor become more active.
The trial of GPs, being coordinated by Loughborough University, will see family doctors given convertible standing desks and wear activity trackers to monitor their movements.
Researchers will ask around 500 GPs across the UK their views around introducing standing consultations in the new year.
It also aims to prompt conversations about the risks of being sedentary and could be rolled out nationwide if successful.
Prof Amanda Daley, leading the pilot, said: “We have all heard the familiar greeting from our GPs to ‘take a seat’.
“Historically GPs and patients sit during consultations to facilitate good doctor-patient rapport. But we also know that GPs spend a long time sitting down during the working day, which can contribute to poor health outcomes.
“Evidence suggests that doctors often neglect their own health. Therefore we need to find ways of getting GPs on their feet and moving more often.
“Standing consultations could help GPs to be more active, as well as highlighting to patients the importance of reducing and breaking up their sitting time.”
The standing appointments will be for adults only and that patients will be able to sit if they wish.
Another possibility may be that standing could shorten the average consultation time.
In spring, a group of GPs in the Midlands will wear ActivPAL activity trackers on their thighs to provide objective data about their movements during and after the working day.
They will be given the desks to use in 30-40 half-day sessions over four to six weeks.
GPs will be asked about their wellbeing, productivity at work and activity level before and after they have used the desks.
Patients will also be quizzed when they leave their consultations.
The desks, which cost around £2,000, can switch between standing and seated formats in seconds with the push of a button.
GPs will be able to use their discretion as to whether they stay standing for the appointment.
For patients who are elderly, frail, pregnant, disabled or about to receive bad news, it may be more appropriate to be seated.
Prof Daley added: “If you come in for a repeat prescription there’s no reason to sit, sitting just takes up more time, so it might be that for certain types of consultation it makes things quicker, and for others it’s just not appropriate.
“For example, if someone comes in for bad news or a cancer diagnosis, you might just want to sit.”
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