Old and poor at risk as covid drives switch to online healthcare

The increasing shift to virtual healthcare has left many at a disadvantage, according to an official watchdog.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove estimated that 8.6 per cent of Brighton’s adult population had not used the internet in the past three months – and 16 per cent lacked basic digital skills.

It is believed that most of these people were either elderly, lived in poverty, struggled to speak English or were had disabilities.

These groups were found to be among the least content with remote appointments, according to the watchdog’s annual report.

Spacewords Brighton

Despite this, many patients were happy with the way that doctors’ surgeries adapted during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 80 per cent of patients who responded to Healthwatch Brighton and Hove said that they were satisfied with GP appointments by phone.

One said: “With less stress getting to the appointment, I had time to get the questions ready and felt much more prepared with what I wanted to get out of the appointment.”

But covid-19 has thrown up major problems in other areas of healthcare provision.

Dentistry has been one of the areas hit hardest, with more than 7 in 10 people saying that it was hard to get timely help when they needed it.

NHS dental services in England were running at a quarter of pre-covid levels, with more than 14.5 million fewer procedures taking place.

A quarter of patients who emailed or left a phone message with a dentist said that they never heard back and 37.5 per cent had to wait more than three days for a response.

One patient said: “Accessing NHS dentistry is by far the hardest thing I have experienced during the pandemic.”

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove also held a webinar on cancer treatment and covid-19.

Issues raised included delays to tests such as endoscopies and colonoscopies – and the limited availability of cancer screening.

It was found, however, that the risk of catching covid-19 among cancer patients was less likely than first predicted.

It was also reported that new lockdown methods such as telephone and video consultations are here to stay.

End of life care was another area investigated by the watchdog which found it was often not a dignified and well-arranged procedure.

Covid-19 has meant that many people have died without close support from their families, with last messages being delivered by phone or FaceTime.

A respondent in hospital said: “Patients need to be touched and spoken to at the end of their life – this is often the last thing they will remember.”

The watchdog made recommendations to NHS bosses, who have pledged to “correct the elements of personal insensitivity and absence of co-ordinated planning” in end-of-life treatment.

To read the annual report, click here.

  1. Sol Reply

    Something to consider as well, if we are talking about healthcare accessibility, is the number of GP surgeries that have closed their doors permanently over the last several years. Those remaining have seen an exponential increase in the number of patients registered on their books, which, of course, increases waiting times for patients.

    Phone and digital triage and consultation are effective tools for the majority of cases. For those who need a step-up, there are plenty of ways suggested in the implementation of Pharmacist Prescribers, continuing the increase in the use of Nurse and Paramedic Practitioners, and the improvement of the overtriage of NHS111 to emergency services.

    • Yuliya Kharisova Reply

      I do not agree with you at all— pharmacists and online or phone consultations will never replace Doctors. Full Stop. Sol, you sound like you have no idea at all what is medicine, what is emergency medicine and HOW IT IS IMPORTANT TO PERFORM DIAGNOSTIC PROCEEDURES ON TIME ( ASAP) TO PRECISELY DIAGNOSE THE PATHOLOGICAL CONDITION IN PATIENTS, TO PRESCRIBE ACCORDING TO A PRECISE DIAGNOSIS EFFECTIVE TREATMENT– TO TREAT AND CURE DISEASE AND — TO PREVENT WORSENING OF THE PATIENT’S CONDITION— ALL THIS IS —- TO SAVE PATIENT’S LIFE.
      Simple example: Patient in UK had a sinusitis and YOUR online consultants Sol — suggested this patient to take paracetamol and plenty of fluids. After following this online advice after 6 days patient developed an acute meningitis and as a result Patient nearly died and thanks God to the real Doctors at A&E Patient was administered emergency treatment and survived.
      The thing is Sol — person who has SINUSITIS emergency treatment could be avoided if diagnosed correctly AND ON TIME by REAL DOCTORS NOT BY ONLINE UNEDUCATED CONSULTANTS.
      Sol, if you have an idea what sinusitis is and what is meningitis and what’s the difference between the two different conditions…then you would never write in your comment to Tyler’s article that phone and digital triage consultations are effective tools for majority of cases.?? PHONE AND ONLINE CONSULTATIONS ARE NOT EFFECTIVE TOOLS AND NEVER WILL BE. Excuse me Sol where is your statistics come from that those online/phone consultations help majority of cases? Because I have a different statistics on my table – here and now -which showes that due to switch to online/phone consultations in UK FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS —–EVERY DAY ON AVERAGE 5 THOUSAND PATIENTS FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM EXPERIENCE WORSENING OF THEIR CONDITIONS AND THEREFORE AS A RESULT online/ phone consultations leading to SOME SORT OF DISABILITY OR WORSE—–

      Tyler in his article is absolutely right–switch to online healthcare puts people at risk.

  2. Jason Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, Yuliya. With GPs working only half a week, if that, and mostly by telephone because they’re suddenly afraid of catching a cold, people with no medical training are forced to diagnose their own conditions, which can be extremely dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening.

    Then there are the excessively long waits for anyone who needs an ambulance. People can DIE waiting for medical assistance to arrive.

    The NHS has NEVER shut down over an illness before, even a serious one, which “covid” DOESN’T appear to be.

    Don’t take my word for it. Ask all those politicians who were convinced enough of their own safety to attend all those Downing Street parties. They wouldn’t have done that if they thought they were in any danger.

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