07.01.19

Every UK patient should be able to Skype their GP says health secretary

healthcare vcon video conferencing

All patients should be able to have a consultation with their GP by video link within five years, the UK Health Secretary has announced. Matt Hancock wants all surgeries to offer digital appointments using a smartphone or computer webcam by 2024. He insists the innovation, which is part of his plan to introduce modern technology across the NHS, will free up GP time and be more convenient for patients.

Hancock said: "Too often, the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date. It frustrates staff and patients alike and doesn’t work well with other NHS systems. This must change. We have to develop a culture of enterprise in the NHS to allow the best technology to flourish."

Hancock has made championing technology his priority since he was appointed in July.

Crtics have questioned the use of systems such as Skype because doctors may miss vital symptoms. They are also concerned that video consultations would undermine doctor-patient relationships.

Hancock stressed that the £20billion windfall promised for the NHS by 2023 was contingent on the adoption of new technology. "The way forward is not to curb the technology – it’s to keep improving it and, only if we need to, change the rules so we can harness new technology in a way that works for everyone – patient and practitioner."

A Department for Health spokesman added: "By 2024 we want every patient in England to be able to access a GP services digitally, with practices able to offer online or video consultations."

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital, said: "The next generation of IT services for primary care must give more patients easy access to key aspects of their medical record and provide the highest quality technology for GPs."