Family doctors are not technophobic dinosaurs, says top GP

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Doctors are not “technophobic dinosaurs”, the UK’s leading GP has said, as she blamed a lack of resources for outdated methods.

GP practices already struggling with finances are unable to keep up with the latest innovations, the chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs (RCGPs) will say in a speech on Thursday.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard will call on political leaders to invest in technology to support GPs and ensure the NHS leads the way in patient care.

“Give us the chance to tame the ‘tech tsunami’ in a way that doesn’t put existing services at risk, in a way that benefits all our patients, and makes our working lives easier,” she will say.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has listed the transformation of technology as among his top priorities since taking on the role and urged health chiefs to get on board.

Addressing members at their annual conference, Professor Stokes-Lampard is expected to say: “I get really exasperated when I hear accusations that GPs are technophobic dinosaurs. What utter nonsense.

“GPs are not ‘afraid’ of technology or innovation.

“But robots don’t come cheap, tech costs money, and for GP practices that are already on the brink, implementing new, good technology is unfeasible.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard will address the annual conference on Thursday (Grainge Photography/RCGP)
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard will address the annual conference on Thursday (Grainge Photography/RCGP)

She will say: “Those with the latest smartphone, those who speak English and live in cities, those who have high speed broadband, are being offered something that others are not.

“I believe that with the right use of technology in the future NHS we can actually aim to reduce health inequalities and counteract some of the adverse social determinants of health.

“But GPs on the frontline just can’t afford the investment in technology, most of us aren’t being propped up by wealthy venture capitalists, after all.

“We need technology that works for patients, makes our lives easier and is not lining the pockets of private investors at the expense of the NHS.”

Professor Stokes-Lampard will also reiterate concerns about GP at Hand, which is available to some patients in London and has received the backing of Mr Hancock.

The app offers a symptom check for patients and video GP consultations, but has been accused of “cherry-picking” healthy patients.

“We need rapid, independent and scientific way to evaluate new innovations, such as online consulting options, software, apps and wearables, so that we can swiftly, safely and effectively establish which is the good new technology,” she is expected to say.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Innovative technology has the potential
to really transform healthcare for patients and staff – that’s why we are encouraging innovation from right across the tech sector to work with the NHS.

“New tech will augment primary care services and give patients greater choice about how they access expert medical advice.

“We’re also investing for the future with an extra £2.4 billion a year in funding for general practice by 2021 – a 14% increase.”

– The Royal College of GPs’ annual conference takes place in Glasgow from October 4 to October 6.

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