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Most people are happy to see their GP virtually, survey shows

Research from healthtech company Visionable finds there has been a significant rise in GP video consultations, and that attitudes to communication technology have changed during the pandemic

The number of people who are happy with virtual GP consultations has risen during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey from healthtech company Visionable.

The company surveyed 1,500 people in February 2020, and a further 1,500 in May about their attitudes towards healthcare communication technologies.

The survey report said there has been “notable growth in support for the role of communication technology in healthcare among UK citizens since Covid-19 has hit”.

It said that in February 2020, 62% of those surveyed were happy with virtual appointments, and in May this had increased to 73% of respondents agreeing that “you don’t always need to see a doctor in person to receive appropriate care”, while four out of five saw the technology as “vital to the future of the NHS”. However, the report added that the appetite for virtual appointments was “slightly higher in more affluent groups”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed earlier this week that in the UK, 99% of GP practices now offer video consultations, compared with less than 10% before the pandemic.

As the coronavirus took hold, more and more GP surgeries closed down for in-patient appointments, and began offering only video or phone consultations. This has naturally meant that more people have had experience of virtual consultations, and the survey found a 50% rise in those who had experienced such consultations.

The survey also found that most  of those surveyed said they did not want to physically visit people in hospital, and 82% said it was “fairly or extremely important for their hospital to allow video technology to enable virtual visiting”.

In March 2020, NHSX started working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to deploy video consultation systems in GP practices across the country. For a while, it was acceptable for practices that didn’t have remote consultation technology to use video-conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime as a short-term measure.

However, nearly all GP practices in England now have a video consultation provider sourced from the Dynamic Purchase Service Framework or the Digital Care Services Framework (DCS, also known as GPIT Futures).

Several hospitals have also embraced video visits, as well as virtual outpatient appointments.

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