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Concern raised over death of five patients seen remotely by GPs

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Patients being assessed remotely in general practice, rather than face-to-face, has been raised as a risk in reports on five deaths by a single coroner since the pandemic hit.

Senior coroner for Greater Manchester Alison Mutch has written five prevention of future deaths reports highlighting concerns that doctors were missing details in telephone appointments which may have been spotted, had the patient been seen in person. The reports cover a variety of conditions, including covid, a broken femur, and anxiety and depression.

In March 2020, NHS England guidance instructed GPs to adopt a “total triage” approach, where face-to-face appointments should generally only follow a phone, video or digital consultation. But, in May, NHSE wrote to GPs to ask them to “ensure they are offering face to face appointments”, adding remote appointments “should be done alongside a clear offer of appointments in person”.

There have been growing calls in the media for increased face-to-face appointments, while, in March 2021, a report by Healthwatch concluded: “While telephone appointments are convenient for some, others are worried that their health issues will not be accurately diagnosed.”

Maureen Baker, former chair of the Royal College of GPs and Patient Safety Learning trustee told HSJ she was “not aware pre-pandemic of any major concerns with remote consulting”, adding: “It’s not that things don’t go wrong. They do, but things can and do go wrong in face-to-face consultations as well.”

“Many practices have been using remote consulting very successfully for many years [but for GPs introducing remote consultations during the pandemic] the concern is that practices will have had to change and implement it very quickly.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 9 September 2021

You may also be interested in a recent blog from Trish Greenhalgh: 'Why remote consultation with a doctor is difficult – and how it can be improved'

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