NHS On-Line Surgeries ‘Will Cost Lives!’

The BMA demonstrating in March to try and stop the Health and Social Care Bill from becoming law
The BMA demonstrating in March to try and stop the Health and Social Care Bill from becoming law

PROPOSALS to ‘save £3 billion’ by transferring NHS services onto the web to end the overcrowding of GP surgeries have been condemned by charities helping people suffering from long-term health conditions.

Health chiefs say that moving services online would save the NHS £3 billion and that every one per cent reduction in face-to-face appointments will save the health service about £200 million.

It is hoped by the government that internet services will greatly assist them in making their £20bn of NHS cuts.

British charities representing patients with long-term illnesses have criticised these NHS plans to replace face-to-face doctors’ appointments with online treatment, saying it will put lives at risk.

The government announced last week that holding Skype clinics and offering other online services would slash costs.

Health minister Dan Poulter is trying to maintain that ending examinations in GP surgeries will ‘make life easier for patients’ and could result in a more convenient service for people suffering from conditions such as diabetes, dementia and heart disease.

However, Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, commented that while he welcomes advances in technology, the proposals are ‘unlikely to benefit the significant number of heart patients who are elderly or from deprived parts of the community and may not have access to the internet’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he wants to see doctors appointments, repeat prescriptions and advice lines moved online during the next two years.

A Department of Health report entitled Digital First details plans in which doctors would read patients’ data on smartphones, and nurses would carry iPads.

Health Minister Dan Poulter outlined the plans last week and said they would ease the life of patients.

Critics however believe the NHS online services, including the use of phone or computer weblinks for consultations with GPs, would leave less technologically-able patients, particularly the elderly, behind.

Campaign groups and politicians have described the plans as ‘dangerous’ and said such moves would put the lives of people at risk.

However, GPs are to be forced to offer these online consultations under DH plans to ‘significantly increase’ the use of technology in the NHS.

By March 2015, patients must also be allowed to view medical records, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions over the internet. They should also be able to talk with their GP practice via email.

The NHS must also ensure GP patient records are transferable between different NHS providers.