PLANS were pushed forward yesterday to drive patients out of hospital, see their GP via the internet rather than face-to-face and even have robots replace nurses to treat patients for dementia!
NHS Digital, head of NHS England Simon Stevens and Tory Health Secretary Hunt announced a digital ‘revolution’, which doctors rightly insisted is just a diversion from the doctor, nurse and GP staffing crisis in the NHS.
NHS Digital and NHS England announced yesterday that they will launch an NHS app in December to ‘give patients access to their own GP record’, leading to fears that once on-line all manner of companies and interested parties could gain access to confidential patient records.
In fact just hours after the announcement yesterday it then emerged that patients’ confidentiality had already been compromised through the sharing of 150,000 patient records of those who did not consent for their personal medical history to be made available.
Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt announced a £215 million investment towards what has been termed the ‘next generation of innovative treatments’. The Department of Health simultaneously called for a ‘revolution in artificial intelligence’ and technology. It predicts that virtual consultations will soon be routinely used in GP surgeries and A&E and ‘may eventually supersede’ face-to-face appointments.
This is while the NHS will ‘employ’ robots to assist dementia patients and ‘virtual health coaches’ to ‘nudge families into healthier lifestyles’ in a move to treat more patients at home, while cutting visits from community nurses. Responding to the launch of the new NHS app that allows patients to ‘manage their care online’, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said that the app cannot ‘create appointments out of nowhere.
‘One of the fundamental problems facing general practice is that there are not enough GPs to meet rising demand, meaning patients wait longer and doctors face unmanageable workloads.
‘So, while innovation such as this app has potential, the government’s priority must be to address the workforce crisis.’
BMA member Anna Athow said: ‘Getting repeat prescriptions can already be done on line.
‘Another phone app, askmyGP, supposedly advises the patient whether they need to see the doctor or not. ‘Without even discussing the symptoms, an appointment may be dished out by the machine. On the other hand, an appointment could be denied when it is really needed.
‘Hunt says the 111 service on the app could advise them that they do not need an appointment.
‘These apps could prove very dangerous, in directing patients away from seeing the GP when they really need to.’
Meanwhile, NHS England has denied involvement in private company Babylon’s drive to sign up NHS patients to its GP at Hand app, after GP leaders questioned comments made by its chair.
Speaking at an event hosted by Babylon and attended by Londonwide LMCs, NHS England chair Professor Sir Malcolm Grant referred to GP at Hand, which promises an online consultation with an NHS GP within hours, as ‘the experiment that we have been conducting in London’. But, ‘clarifying the comments’, an NHS England spokesperson said it had ‘merely been involved in the commissioning and assessment of GP at Hand.