Access to basic IT hardware and software is preventing some GPs from carrying out remote consultations with their patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the results of a Northern Ireland technology survey released by the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland (RCGPNI).
The April 2020 survey of just over 100 GPs in Northern Ireland found that 40 per cent of GPs have not been able to practice remotely from home during the pandemic, with almost a third of these (31%) stating access to technology as the reason.
Over half (52%) of those who had worked from home experienced difficulty in accessing a practice laptop to enable them to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Network issues were also a problem with 39 per cent who had practised from home.
RCGPNI is now calling on the Government to ensure every GP practice has the necessary technology to allow GPs and their teams to work remotely, where necessary. This should include access to laptops, appropriate connectivity and software to allow effective video consultations.
Commenting on the survey Dr Laurence Dorman, RCGPNI Chair, said:
"Our GP colleagues have to be commended for their truly innovative response in totally changing how they deliver care in our surgeries. Through investment in IT, access to home working will benefit our patients, ensuring they have good access to their own GP who may not be able to attend their practice in person.
RCGPNI also wants to see a NI government-led technology plan setting out clear guidance and accountability for deploying technology to GP practices, so that any technological gains made during the pandemic are not lost beyond the crisis.