GPs and practice staff will be surveyed as part of an NHS England-commissioned independent evaluation of remote GP consultations.
In its latest GP bulletin, sent last week, NHS England said ‘insights’ from the study will ‘inform future policy and how support is provided to general practice’.
It said: ‘As part of our ongoing evaluation work, NHS [England] has commissioned an independent study into staff experiences of digital tools to support patient access, remote triage and online consultations.
‘Participation from all practice staff is strongly encouraged – receptionists, administrators, clinicians and practice managers.’
It asked practice staff to take part in ‘confidential discussions’ about their experiences, including ‘what they would like to see improved’.
The online survey, conducted by consultancy firm RSM, said it was seeking views from ‘GPs, practice nurses and administrative and managerial staff involved in the implementation and delivery of online and video consultations and the remote triage of patients’.
It added that a report on the evaluation, which ‘aims to understand how digital tools are being implemented across primary care, explore differences in approaches, and draw out best practice examples for patient care’, is ‘expected’ to be finalised in May 2022.
Topics covered in one-to-one interviews will include workload, ‘patient experiences’, which aspects of remote triage and consultations practice staff would ‘like to keep or abandon’ due to their pandemic experiences and what models have helped practices ‘manage demand’, the survey said.
A ‘small number’ of practices will also be invited to take part in ‘case studies’ involving ‘engagement with the wider practice team’, but participation is voluntary and declining ‘will not affect any future support’ received from NHS England, it added.
NHS England appointed RSM to undertake the independent evaluation in February 2020, according to the survey.
In October last year, a health minister said that NHS England was conducting a review of the ‘impact’ of GP remote consultations – with findings to be used to work with suppliers to ‘improve the design and accessibility of digital systems to better meet patient needs’.
But in May, the RCGP urged the Government to conduct a ‘comprehensive review’ of total triage and to develop ‘UK-wide principles’ for their safe and effective use following the pandemic.
It comes amid an ongoing row over face-to-face appointments and access to general practice, most recently seeing the RCGP dispute the health secretary’s recent claim that poor access to GP practices is increasing pressures on A&E services.
And GPs were given until 14 November to vote in the BMA’s indicative ballot to determine whether or not they want to take industrial action against the Government’s access plan. Results of the ballot are due to be announced on 18 November.
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.