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GPs call for face-to-face consultations to remain for patients amid fears symptoms could be missed

GPs call for face-to-face consultations to remain an option for patients amid fears symptoms could be missed during remote appointments

  • A report says face-to-face appointments with GPs must not stop altogether 
  • Royal College of General Practitioners says symptoms could be missed by Zoom
  • Matt Hancock is in favour of making online appointments permanent after Covid 

Face-to-face GP appointments must not become a thing of the past, a major report says today.

Ministers’ plans to make remote consultations the norm risk damaging patients’ health because symptoms are more likely to be missed, the Royal College of General Practitioners warns.

In March last year GPs were ordered to carry out all appointments by phone or online unless absolutely necessary to limit the spread of Covid.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has warned symptoms could be missed over online appointments

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in favour of making this shift permanent and has said the NHS must not ‘fall back into bad old habits’ following the pandemic. 

Last year he hailed a new era of ‘Zoom medicine’ where patients initially consult their doctors virtually ‘unless there is a compelling clinical reason’. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in favour of online doctor appointments

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is in favour of online doctor appointments

But a report by the RCGP, which represents 53,000 family doctors, said this must not be the ‘automatic default’ and argued that it could delay diagnoses of deadly conditions including cancer.

‘In some cases, non-verbal or “soft” cues such as signs of anxiety, self-harm, or smelling alcohol on a patient’s breath, may be more easily missed remotely,’ the report said.

An NHS spokesman said: ‘Now that background rates of Covid have fallen and lockdown is easing, practices are expected to further ramp up face-to-face options so people get timely and appropriate care depending on need and preference.’

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