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What are remote consultations?

View profile for Elizabeth Groom
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What are remote consultations?

The General Medical Council has recently issued new guidance about remote consultations, as these appear to be on the rise, in order to address any concerns remote consultations may bring when it comes to patient safety.

What are they?

Remote consultations are consultations with a doctor or a GP that can take place over the phone, online or via video link. Such consultations appear to be on the rise, as they save the doctor’s time, benefit patients, and help manage the increasing public demand for more efficient access to medical advice.

The General Medical Council guidance

The guidance has been issued as the General Medical Council identified that there are patient safety risks to be considered when a doctor is consulting remotely. The guidance provides that it is important for doctors to identify and manage those risks, and furthermore, to identify that remote consultations may not always be in the patient’s interest.

Factors to weigh up

Within the guidance, doctors are advised to weigh up the factors in order to identify the best type of consultation depending on the patient’s needs.

Remote consultations may be appropriate where:

  • The patient’s request or clinical needs appears straightforward
  • The doctor has access to the patient’s medical records
  • There is no need for the doctor to examine the patient
  • The patient has capacity to decide about treatment or a course of action
  • There is a safe system in place if the doctor needs to prescribe medication; and
  • The doctor can give the patient all the information they need or want about treatment options either over the phone, online or video link.

Remote consultations are unlikely to be suitable when:

  • The doctor is prescribing injectable cosmetic products
  • The doctor is unsure about the patient’s capacity to decide about treatment
  • The doctor has a need to examine the patient
  • It is difficult for the doctor to ensure, by remote means, that the patient has all the information they need and want about treatment options
  • The doctor does not have access to the patient’s medical records; and
  • If the doctor is not the patient’s usual doctor or GP, and the patient has not given the doctor consent to share their information, particularly if the treatment needs monitoring or a follow up.

Additional Information

The General Medical Council has confirmed that doctors need to ensure that the medium they are using to complete the consultation does not affect the doctor’s ability to follow the law or General Medical Council guidance, with an emphasis being placed on patient consent and a continuity of care, particularly when a doctor is advising on or prescribing treatment for a patient by way of a remote consultation.

The General Medical Council has issued further guidance on remote consultations, and particularly remote prescribing via telephone, online or video-link, and a copy of this guidance can be found on their website. 

If you are facing investigation by the General Medical Council as a result of issues surrounding remote consultations, prescribing, or other fitness to practice matters, our specialist lawyers have extensive experience of successfully defending doctors in fitness to practise proceedings brought by the General Medical Council (GMC). We are a leading firm in this area and we pride ourselves on achieving the best possible results for our clients. For immediate advice from one of our specialist General Medical Council lawyers, call 0175 321 6399.

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