Minister faces backlash over online GP appointments comment

Minister faces backlash over her claim that patients are ‘comfortable’ attending GP appointments online

  • The NHS will monitor 50,000 patients a month in their own homes in new plan
  • Helen Whatley said this was something that was started during the pandemic
  • Elderly people campaign group says they have received numerous complaints

The social care minister faced a backlash yesterday after claiming that patients are ‘very comfortable’ engaging with remote appointments.

Helen Whately, pictured, said the NHS will monitor up to 50,000 patients a month in their own homes rather than in hospital under plans to free-up beds.

The ‘virtual wards’ will involve patients wearing watches or finger sensors that monitor their vital signs and report back to doctors, who will hold video consultations.

Patients were often denied face-to-face GP appointments during the Covid-19 pandemic as family doctors switched to phone and video.

Health Minister Helen Whately being interviewed by Sally Nugent on BBC Breakfast 

It sparked concerns from MPs and health charities that diseases such as cancer were being missed and it excluded people without broadband.

But Miss Whately yesterday told Sky News: ‘What will happen when doctors are considering whether someone can be discharged into a virtual ward is considering what the set-up is for the patient at home.

‘Actually, this is something that was started to be used in the pandemic and we saw lots of people are actually very comfortable with using apps, being online, making video calls, things like that.’

Dennis Reed, of Silver Voices, which campaigns for the elderly, said: ‘I don’t know who the minister has been talking to – her comments are certainly not reflective of the complaints we receive.’

Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting warned that virtual wards ‘without any staff isn’t hospital at home, it is home alone’.

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