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Doctors' surgeries to trial Skype and email appointments

By The Citizen  |  Posted: April 15, 2014

Patients at 1147 GPs across the country will be able to access GP services through iPads.

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Doctors in Gloucestershire have said proposals for longer GP opening hours and patient checkups over Skype will lead to surgeries “struggling to cope.”

Patients will be able to see their family doctors at evenings and weekends, book appointments online and receive electronic prescriptions, Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday.

More than 7.5million people at 1,147 GP practices across England will be offered increased access to their GPs in trials next month.

The £50million scheme was unveiled in October amid fears that too many people were turning up to A&E when they could not get GP appointments.

Demand for the money from doctors has meant the trials have expanded from 500,000, which was originally planned.

Dr Chris Good, a GP in Drybrook, Gloucestershire, said: “This is a very interesting initiative, but it would require an increase in the GP workforce, and at the moment we’re struggling to get replacements in.

“The real problem is that many young doctors no longer want to be GPs, as we are overworked as it is. We’re going to really struggle if these proposals are adopted more widely.”

The Prime Minister also announced plans to enhance care services for the elderly.

Around 800,000 people over the age of 75 and those with more serious health complaints will get a tailored service, with a named GP responsible for their care and same-day access to a doctor when they need it.

“Back in October, I said I wanted to make it easier for people to get appointments that fit in around a busy working week and family commitments,” said Mr Cameron.

“There has been a great response from doctors, with lots of innovative ideas, and we will now see over seven million patients given weekend and evening opening hours, alongside more access to their family doctor on the phone, via email or even Skype. This is an important step and good news for patients.”

Dr Roy Sharma, pictured, a GP in Lydney, said: “The biggest problem with these proposals for small practices is practicality.

“We currently have 7,000 patients registered with us and we have four doctors and four nurses. If we have to take on more patients then more mistakes may be made.

“Having 24/7 GPs in a rural area is fanciful. It seems like this is a city-based scheme being thrust on the countryside.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposals are “one of the biggest changes that we need to make in our NHS.”

Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said it had become much harder to get a GP appointment under the coalition.

“For the vast majority who are outside of this scheme, things will carry on getting worse and they are being told to expect to wait a week for a GP appointment,” he said.

“No wonder more and more people are turning to A&E, which has just had its worst year in a decade.”

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