Skype consultations will replace hospital appointments within five years as part of Theresa May’s long term NHS plan.
The PM revealed her strategy at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Trust in Liverpool last Monday. The plan details an ambition to scrap unnecessary doctor appointments and transform the current model of healthcare in the UK. While cutting the NHS spending with millions, it will put people in touch with their doctors at the click of a button.
‘It’s using the smart phone technology many people already have in their pockets so they can easily see a GP over the Internet and even get expert help from consultants without the need for an inconvenient hospital visit,’ said Mr. Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS. According to him, the use of technology ‘would put more in the hands of patients’.
The NHS predicts that by 2023/2024 nearly one million people will have access to social prescribing. The strategy plan aims to encourage patients to have online appointments and manage long-term illnesses themselves.
‘I want to see the NHS make greater use of technology. And that means everything from monitoring conditions from the comfort of your home to accessing your GP by your smartphone,’ said Mrs. May.
The plan is expected to put an end to the unnecessary hospital appointments after doctors claim many patients do not need to be seen in person. Advice, follow-up consultations after surgery and the monitoring of long-term conditions can all be done online, Mr. Stevens said.
According to Royal College of Physicians’ report, the number of outpatient appointments has doubled in a decade from 54 million to 94 million a year, costing £8 billion annually. If the trend continues, an extra £1.1 billion a year will be needed to keep the pace. Switching to online consultations, on the other hand, could help NHS save £1 billion shortfall for the coming year.
However, patient groups fear that going online could lead the majority of over 70-s to serious medical problems. ‘Phone and virtual consultations are far from ideal for many of the elderly. They need face to face contact, not someone to speak over the phone,’ said Joyce Robbins, from Patient Concern.
The NHS and Government claim their strategy will save up to half a million lives over the next decade.