The rising risk of remote GP consultation error
Covid 19 has had a massive impact on GP practices nationwide. One particular area of change is the growth of remote GP consultations, with video examinations now replacing a significant proportion of face-to-face consultations up and down the country.
This development has wide-ranging implications for healthcare in the UK and carries the heightened risk of a remote GP consultation error being made.
Remote consultations have always played a part in general practice and many medical issues, such as repeat prescriptions, can be safely dealt with without a face-to-face consultation being necessary. Used correctly they can be a useful resource and help GPs to use their time more efficiently. However the worry is that remote consultations are now being utilised far too frequently and, worryingly, in circumstances where a remote GP consultation error could have serious consequences for the patient.
Many people involved in healthcare feel that if a patient is able to get to the surgery, then it is quicker and, above all, safer for the examination to take place on a traditional face-to-face basis. However, some practices continue to see Covid as a reason to restrict the number of patients attending the surgery. Given our vaccination programme is this still a reasonable concern? Should the tide now be turning back towards in-person GP examinations?
Going forward, when a missed diagnosis or a delayed diagnoses involving a general practitioner now occurs consideration will be given to whether it was caused by a remote GP consultation error being made.
To avoid the possibility of a medical negligence claim being brought, GPs must ensure that if they do carry out a remote examination then it should not be of a type that could involve a risk of them missing something serious. If the patient is presenting with symptoms that cannot be confidently assessed in a video examination, then a face-to-face consultation should be immediately arranged.