IT is a key tool in improving efficiency…

I hope everyone is coping as the inexorable tide of work floods back into our surgeries, made worse by the fact that our normal relationships with community and acute services are distorted, and everything seems to take longer. The initial “all in it together” surge of energy against a distinct threat is fading, and many of us are tired and anxious.

Unfortunately, this is true across the NHS – there are few easy interventions, as many services are stretched and have little spare capacity to help each other out. It is reassuring that there is reasonable acceptance at all levels that if primary care is not able to function then patients suffer, or problems fall on secondary care, costing more money and distracting them from helping the patients we know need their specialist skills. But this acceptance needs to be backed up with support for all GP practices in Scotland.

At SGPC last week we discussed how general practice could be supported to recover. One area that seemed obvious was implementing better IT to improve efficiency across the system. Though we have seen some progress over the last few years, and even more in the last few months, there is no doubt that things could be improved. Some of the improvements are longstanding and complex, like electronic prescribing – and many of these big-ticket changes may be dependent on the delayed GP IT Reprovisioning process.

Some, however, do not require wholesale change. Many practices are finding the Digital Asynchronous Consulting Systems (or DACS) helpful for triaging and managing calls and planning workload. There are also Chronic Disease Management tools that can help monitor our patients. None of these tools will suit every practice, and there are different schemes that some may like better than others – so we are looking for funding to be made available to practices to let them try software out and help inform others in the future.

Teleconsulting has suddenly become the norm, both via phone and Near Me; and this requires better broadband and digital telephone systems. In order to help us work with the rapidly changing extended teams we need to make data sharing easy and secure, and to allow specialists to investigate and monitor patients in the community we need to see better order comms so results go back directly to the requesting clinician(and reliable CTAC services).

So, those were some of the ideas we had at SGPC – but is really helpful to hear ideas from GPs across Scotland to help inform the discussions we are already having with Scottish Government.

Tell us the IT changes that would make the biggest difference to you and your patients; and perhaps even more importantly any that could be made quickly to help general practice recover before the coming of Winter?

Andrew Cowie is deputy chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee

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