If you had asked me five years ago, or even this time last year, if I would be performing clinical work from home I would have said ‘no chance’. Both doctors’ and patients’ cultural expectations are for face-to-face appointments, and the infrastructure just isn’t there. How quickly things can change, even for the behemoth NHS, when there is a need. If there are any positives to take from this pandemic, IT advances may be one.
It is the view of the sessional GPs committee that where it is possible for GPs to safely work from home, then that should be the default – to minimise risk to staff and patients. Every practice situation is unique, and some face-to-face work will need to be shared equitably between clinical staff (based in part upon risk assessment of clinicians). However, where IT allows, remote working is currently the safest option.
If you haven’t discussed remote working as a practice then it may be worth considering, as COVID-19 is likely to change the way we work for the foreseeable future. If your practice is unsure about provision of hardware/software then get in touch with your local IT lead to see what provision is available where you are.
For those of you who have made the switch from predominantly face-to-face to telephone consulting, you’ll know that different doesn’t equal faster, and many colleagues are finding that telephony has its own set of pros and cons.
It is worth considering whether your practice is utilising telephone triage, telephone consultations, or both. True telephone triage will often be brief, but a telephone consultation would normally take as long as a face-to-face consultation. Therefore, you should not be expected to routinely increase the total number of consultations or reduce consultation length when moving from face-to-face to telephone consults.
If you are concerned about your working pattern, in the first instance discuss it with your senior partner and refer to your job plan. The work done may have changed due to COVID, but your job plan should form the basis of discussion if you are concerned. We have all had to be flexible to adapt to COVID-19, but it is important to ensure that your working patterns are safe, and sustainable, as this is a marathon and we can’t yet see the finish line.
Ben Molyneux is chair of the BMA sessional GPs committee