Covid: Major study finds only 3% of doctors think remote consultations are better than face-to-face appointments

Doctors and nurses working in the clinical hub of the Emergency Department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley (stock image). Picture date: Wednesday January 27, 2021.
Doctors and nurses working in the clinical hub of the Emergency Department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley (stock image). Picture date: Wednesday January 27, 2021.

Cambridge University researchers found the shift towards video and over-the-phone consultations was a 'disaster' for many patients

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Just three per cent of doctors think remote consultations are better for patients than face-to-face meetings, a major study carried out during the pandemic has found.

Cambridge University researchers found the shift towards video and over-the-phone consultations was a "disaster" for many patients.

The study found consultations "increased the risk of misdiagnosis and barriers to care", and were particularly damaging for elderly, poor and disabled patients.

Ninety-three per cent of doctors agreed remote appoints were worse than face-to-face meetings for diagnosing patients. It's one of the first major studies which has assessed the move to online appointments and for diagnosing illnesses.

The study surveyed 1,340 rheumatology patients at more than 100 hospital between April and July this year. Around one-third of patients had inflammatory arthritis and another third had immune disease flare-ups.

GPs have come under pressure to ensure they carry out face-to-face appointments when patients need them.

A letter sent from NHS England to all GP practices in September asked practices to ensure they have made clear to the public that face to face appointments continue to be on offer, where clinically appropriate, in addition to video and phone consultations.

Between March to July NHS Digital estimated that there were 102 million appointments in general practice, half of which were recorded over the phone or through video calls.

And research suggests that almost two thirds of the public are happy to have a GP consultation remotely.

Just three per cent of doctors think remote consultations are better for patients than face-to-face meetings.
Just three per cent of doctors think remote consultations are better for patients than face-to-face meetings.

Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England Nikki Kanani said: “The last few months has seen general practice playing a vital role in the fight against coronavirus, adapting quickly to significantly increase the availability of video and phone consultations and offer safe face to face care when needed.

“While many people, particularly those most vulnerable to Covid-19 want the convenience of a consultation over the phone or video, the NHS has been and will continue to offer face to face appointments and I would urge anyone who feels they need medical support to come forward so they can get the care, support and advice they need – the NHS is here for you.”