‘GPs are not afraid of technology or innovation’, says RCGP chair

Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, addressed the issue of IT in healthcare at the annual Primary Care Conference yesterday

Here, we have outlined the highlights of Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard’s RCGP Annual  Primary Care Conference 2018 speech, which addresses the necessity of fit-for-purpose technology in the NHS.

“Today, I want to focus on technology – the contrast between tech-savvy and technophobe, in an era where we have a veritable tech tsunami raging around us.

“And, as 2018 is a year of anniversaries, including the 70th anniversary of the launch of our NHS, I also want to look ahead to the next 10 years and talk to you about our ongoing work around our future vision for general practice.

“I am a patient woman, some say I am too patient at times, but I get really exasperated when I hear accusations that GPs are technophobic dinosaurs. What utter nonsense. What total codswallop!

“GPs are not afraid of technology or innovation. We are bright, intelligent people who gladly embrace good, safe technology.

“We were the first part of the NHS to have computerised records, to have electronic prescribing, to collect coded data, to go paper light, and then paperless. And let’s be honest, most of us do love a new gadget, some wearable tech or a new time saving innovation.

“Change is always hard, even wanted, ‘planned for’ change. But, do you know the single thing that made it the hardest? The IT.

“I won’t name them, but our software provider refused to let us merge our web-based consulting system when we wanted to. Instead, we were firmly given just two options for ‘dates’ we could go live, one three-months later than we wanted, one four-months earlier.

“This nonsense should not be happening when the NHS is such a massive purchaser of IT services.

“Why are we not dictating to the IT providers what we want and need? Why are we beholden to them, not the other way around?

“We need technology that works for patients. And makes our lives easier. So, the NHS needs to take control. The rest of the NHS needs to take note, to watch and learn, and up its game.

“I have been publicly criticised this year for suggesting that their technology is impressive. Well, ‘spoiler alert’, it is quite impressive. But we are still awaiting assurance that it is safe, and for that we need robust independent evaluation.

“It is also intensely frustrating to traditional general practice as they seem to have found a way through the GP contract and regulatory frameworks, to set up something completely different for the NHS.

“I believe that this is our wake-up call – our shake up call. If we bury our heads in the sand and ignore this, we are fools.

Stokes-Lampard pointed out that there is an inequality inherent in digital technology, as not everybody has the same opportunities to access it. “I don’t want to be a GP just for a few people. I want to be a GP for all people,” she said.

“I call upon the four governments of the UK to make the NHS the market leader for medical technology, so that we can deliver safe, effective, high-quality care for everyone.

“I also call for the government to commit to having e-consultation facilities in every GP practice by 2022 and ensure that every practice across the UK has high-speed broadband capability.

“We need technology that works for patients, makes our lives easier and is not lining the pockets of private investors at the expense of the NHS.”

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