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The SPCR and ARC West funded RAPCI (Rapid Covid-19 Intelligence to Improve Primary Care Response) study has found that the rapid shift to remote GP consulting was successful and maintained a focus on vulnerable patients during the pandemic. Concerns were raised by GPs, however, that remote consulting may have risks and would need adjusting after the pandemic. The Centre for Academic Primary Care issued the following press release:

"One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rapid move to telephone, video and online GP consultations. In a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded study, researchers from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol and NIHR ARC West found that while the rapid shift to remote GP consulting was successful and maintained a focus on vulnerable patients, it was driven by necessity and may have risks.

90 per cent of consultations were remote (by telephone, video and online) in April 2020 compared with 31 per cent in April 2019

 The NHS long-term plan mandates a move to remote consulting and this change was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While pre-COVID-19 research established that telephone and video consultations were effective and safe, it was done in the context of remote consulting implemented for certain patients and conditions. Our study shows some limitations with remote consultations and suggests that remote GP consulting should be offered as one of a range of options, not by default. Post-pandemic we believe the model will need to be adjusted.”
- Dr Mairead Murphy

The Rapid COVID-19 Intelligence to Improve Primary Care Response (RAPCI) study examined how GP practices responded to the pandemic in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The study focused on how 21 practices in the area coped with changes in demand, the implementation of alternatives to face-to-face consultation, and the impact these changes had on the delivery of patient care from April to August 2020.

The researchers examined patient consultations data to see if there had been changes in how GPs and nurses consulted with patients during the pandemic compared to the previous year. Between 13 May and 29 July 2020, the researchers also conducted over 80 interviews with GPs, practice managers and nurses from the practices at four time points to understand the challenges they faced.

Read more: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/primaryhealthcare/news/2021/rapci-study.html

Paper: The implementation of remote consulting in UK primary care following the COVID-19 pandemic: a mixed methods longitudinal study by Mairead Murphy et al. Published in British Journal of General Practice. Date tbc.

See also:

The RAPCI Project Final Report (5) (PDF, 1,105kB) which provides more details on the challenges practices faced, innovative solutions developed, changes in consultation volumes over time, and lessons learned throughout the RAPCI project.