Majority of GPs plan to continue with remote consultations and triage post COVID-19 - MDU survey

GP members tell us how their working practices have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three quarters (77%) of GPs surveyed anticipate that they will continue to use remote working practices frequently post pandemic, according to new research published by the UK's leading medical defence organisation.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) surveyed GP members about how their working practices had changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key findings from the survey of 172 GPs included:

  • 90% of GPs feel that working practices have significantly changed since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 97% of respondents increased their use of phone consultations.
  • 75% and 55% increased their use of video consultations and online triage systems respectively.
  • 63% are concerned about facing a complaint or claim related to the pandemic, although 66% of respondents have not yet noticed a rise in such cases.
  • 82% would feel reassured if they could provide treatment during the pandemic without the risk of being sued for negligence.

GPs felt there were advantages to new working practices including protecting staff by minimising the spread of infection (88%), increased convenience for patients (70%) and fewer missed appointments (48%).

However, there were also some disadvantages including loss of contact with isolated or lonely patients (73%), delays in referrals and increased waiting times for patients to be seen in secondary care (71%) and technical difficulties which hindered remote consultations (70%).

Dr Caroline Fryar, head of advisory services at the MDU, commented:

"While all GPs are used to dealing with high pressure situations, making stressful decisions and managing seriously ill patients, the pandemic has magnified existing challenges and presented many new ones.

"It is becoming clear that working practices within the NHS have irrevocably changed as a result of the pandemic. In some instances, this has resulted in positive changes such as remote consultations improving flexibility and convenience for patients, and consequently, fewer missed appointments.

"However, the pandemic has also led to delays in referrals and increased waiting times and it's clear that GPs are also concerned about the risk of a future complaint or claim for treatment undertaken during the pandemic.

"Between March and November, the MDU opened over 2,500 complaint and adverse incident case files, which is extremely concerning as some of these have the potential to become clinical negligence claims and GMC investigations. Our role is to lessen the burden on members and we encourage them to get our support early on if they are aware of a potential complaint or adverse event."

This page was correct at publication on 15/12/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.