NHS England research shows 40% of people have not been seeking help from GP during pandemic.
Medical Solutions analysis of its usage data from January to August 2020 has shown that more than a third (36%) of its virtual GP services have been utilised by those under 30 years old, with a further 28% aged 30-39.
A survey by NHS England found that 40% of people were not seeking help from their GP for fear of being a burden to the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, we reported that there were around 26 million fewer appointments at GP surgeries between March and August of this year, according to NHS Digital statistics.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned that millions could have missed out on vital care or missed cancer diagnoses as a result. It called for an "active effort" to find those who may have delayed or ignore signs of poor health.
Recent figures from Cancer Research UK estimated that more than 350,000 people in the UK missed out on urgent referral to hospital with suspected cancer symptoms since the pandemic stuck at the end of the March.
Medical Solutions observed over 300% increase in patient demand at the peak of the pandemic, yet only a relatively small proportion of appointments in 2020 to date have been Covid-related (less than 5%). Instead, dermatology (16%, vs 12% in 2019) and orthopaedic/MSK (12%) were the most common reasons for seeking medical advice.
Paul Nattrass, commercial director at Medical Solutions, said: "The rise of virtual GP services has been a quiet evolution that has been coming for 20 years but the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed perceptions of remote healthcare as many patients understand the benefits of being able to see a doctor 24/7, without needing to travel to a clinic.
"We are able to identify insights on behaviours and outcomes among our service users that demonstrate the positive impact remote GP services have in terms of helping employers boost productivity and reduce absence levels, convenience for the user and reducing the burden on the NHS. While many people may have felt hesitant to utilise the NHS during the height of the pandemic, our data shows that users, particularly younger people, felt confident in seeking advice via our virtual GP service. In fact, we saw a third of users this year seek advice on more than one occasion."
Medical Solutions also found that a fifth of its service users were seeking GP services outside of regular working hours with 25% of appointments held either before 9am or after 5pm. Furthermore, a fifth (21%) of all appointments to date in 2020 were held on a weekend, up from 18% on the same period last year.
NHS England's annual GP patient survey in 2019 found that the proportion of patients who can get through to their surgery on the phone has also dropped over the last seven years, from 80.3% to 68.3% and 35% were dissatisfied with the access to their GP.
Approximately 80% of all appointments in 2020 needed no further referral via a patient's own GP care pathway or via an urgent care pathway. Only 6% of all appointment outcomes led to an urgent care pathway in 2020 (down from 8% in 2019).
Nattrass concluded: "Our aim is to support our clients and their members or staff, keeping them healthy by providing convenient, simple access to primary care solutions whenever they need it and wherever they are. 24/7 access to health advice coupled with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention through our Holistic Health solution helps equip and empower people to manage their health proactively and reduces the risk of more serious conditions developing."
Published on 27/10/2020 by Adam Saville (Cover Magazine)