Death of the face-to-face doctor appointment? NHS 10-year plan reveals millions of GP visits and hospital consultations could be conducted through Skype-style videos to save cash
- The NHS as a whole has not met the target since 2014, according to figures
- Simon Stevens suggested the change in targets on Radio 4’s Today programme
- New targets could be more of a two-tier system, depending on patient severity
Millions of NHS outpatient appointments could be conducted through Skype-style calls in the next five years, the 10-year plan for the health service revealed today.
In a desperate attempt to save money, officials announced they hope to slash a third of ‘face-to-face’ appointments – around 30million visits.
The plan, unveiled by Theresa May during a visit to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, spoke of how ‘digital appointments’ are already helping patients.
The full document added that this is ‘better for patients’ and allows the capacity of stretched outpatient clinics to be used more efficiently.
In a desperate attempt to save money, officials announced they hope to slash a third of ‘face-to-face’ appointments – around 30million visits
Mrs May commissioned the plan last year after pledging to spend an extra £20.5bn per year on healthcare by 2023/24.
It was due to have been published in December – but was delayed because of work on Brexit.
Among the highlights of the plan are digital GP appointments for all, exercise and healthy living programmes for 100,000 people a year, and interventions for drinkers.
Mrs May used her speech to say she was pleased to see her six priorities for the health service were reflected in the plan drawn up by health chiefs.
These included reducing variation across NHS organisations so ‘world class care’ reaches all patients; better support and recognition for staff, the ‘lifeblood’ of the service; greater use of technology; and more mental health support than ever.
By 2029, the NHS hopes changes made as a result of today’s plan will mean 85,000 fewer people die each year from preventable causes.
Illnesses in the firing line include childhood cancers, top killers heart disease and dementia, and public health nuisances alcohol and tobacco.
Each year DNA sequencing will be offered to around 1,800 children with cancer or rare genetic conditions to develop more personalised medicines.
Doctors will also carry out testing to identify patients with dangerously high levels of cholesterol caused by genetics.
And the latest artificial intelligence technology will be brought in to better diagnose when patients have suffered a stroke – to ensure they get the right treatment quickly.
At the same time, digital GP consultations – on smartphones or tablets – will be made available to everyone who wants them as officials try to slash long waits for appointments.
Preventing ill health in the first place will also be key to reducing pressures on the NHS, leaders say, with patients encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles.
Exercise and healthy living programmes will be rolled out to 100,000 people with heart complaints, potentially saving 23,000 people from dying prematurely.
Hospital staff will be told to target problem drinkers, offer counselling to patients who are smokers and encourage those at risk of type 2 diabetes to take preventative action.
Health bosses also want to diagnose three quarters of all cancers in the early stages when they will still respond well to treatment – the figure is currently 50 per cent.
Britain’s survival rates for cancer are among the worst in Europe, with late diagnosis needlessly costing thousands of lives a year.
Tens of thousands more doctors and nurses have been promised to alleviate current shortages, although a full workforce plan won’t be revealed until later this year.