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A primary case for patients to go digital

Alex Matthews

The Sunday Times Scotland

9 November 2014

Letter to the editor 

Whilst both the demand and fiscal pressure on NHS Scotland increase, the answer to the reported poor availability of primary care services is not bigger budgets and more doctors (“Shortage of GPs 'a danger to patients'”, 2 November 2014). Almost every primary care interaction in Scotland currently requires a face to face appointment with a GP. This is an anachronism that has been preserved for far too long. Basic digital technologies used by many patients everyday - such as apps, social media and wearable devices - can reduce demands placed on GPs by monitoring chronic conditions, reducing unnecessary or missed appointments and delivering certain primary care services direct to patients at home.

Better use of digital technology is both necessary and inevitable, but urgent action is required; a recent report by Reform Scotland confirms that of the 994 GP surgeries in Scotland only 67% have basic websites, only 51% offer repeat prescriptions online and only 10% offer appointment booking online. Collectively, Scottish Government, NHS Scotland, and the GP practices themselves, must modernise primary care and address the risk presented by placing greater demand on insufficient resources.

Alex Matthews is a healthcare expert at PA Consulting Group 

Contact the government and public sector team

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