Digital GP retention
5th December 2019
An innovative pilot scheme to help retain GPs who may be thinking of leaving the profession will see doctors in Lancashire and South Cumbria using digital equipment to enable them to have virtual appointments with their patients.
The digital GP retention scheme is initially being trialled with 20 GPs working in practices in every part of Lancashire and South Cumbria – Pennine Lancashire, Central Lancashire (Preston, Chorley and South Ribble), Fylde Coast, Morecambe Bay and West Lancashire. Those taking part include two GPs who are about to go on maternity leave and other GPs who had been considering taking retirement.
The GPs have been given mobile devices equipped with specialist software, which enables them to have video appointments with patients from wherever they are. Patients are sent an email link for their appointment, which takes them to a virtual waiting room before their appointment begins. The technology can also be used to support virtual care home visits.
The aim is to offer more flexible working to GPs to make it easier for them to stay in work and retain their skills, for example if they have family or caring commitments or want to reduce their working hours or retire. Offering video consultations also makes it easier for patients to access general practice services, enabling them to book appointments that fit around their commitments.
The rollout of video consultations is also a key part of the GP Retention Intensive Support Scheme, which is providing additional support to retain GPs in the first and final five years of their careers in Morecambe Bay, Blackpool and West Lancashire.
Currently, doctors who work fewer than 40 sessions per year or stop working need to undergo a formal training and assessment process if they want to stay registered or re-register as GPs so that they can continue to work. This scheme enables them to maintain at least the minimum number of weekly sessions needed to remain registered as a GP, ensuring their time and skills are not lost to general practice.
Dr Malcolm Ridgway, Senior Clinical Advisor in Primary Care in Lancashire and South Cumbria, said: “We have had considerable interest in this scheme from GPs who have told us they were thinking of leaving the profession. Enabling them to have appointments with patients remotely will keep them working when their skills and experience would have otherwise been lost to general practice.
“We’ll be evaluating this to see if it does support GPs to stay in work and we’ll also want to make sure we hear from patients about their experiences of the virtual appointments.”
The scheme is providing positive feedback in its early stages and it is hoped it can be rolled out more widely across the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria over time.
As well as improving access for patients, the initiative is enabling GPs to offer additional or specialist sessions such as dementia and diabetes clinics so that practices are able to increase the range of services or number of appointments they can offer and further improve access for patients.