University partners in £750,000 research project to support remote GP care delivery during COVID-19 pandemic

A joint project between the Universities of Oxford and Plymouth has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to support the delivery of effective remote care to patients by GPs.

The research team, which includes Professor in Primary Care Research and PenARC Deputy Director Richard Byng and researchers from the Nuffield Trust, is led by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh from the University of Oxford.

The way that patients access GP services has changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the contagious nature of the disease, with many services moving online and patients more likely to arrange and attend appointments remotely. The study, ‘Remote-by-Default Care in the COVID-19 Pandemic’, aims to support the development of tools to help clinicians assess people effectively by phone or video as well as to support the changes to services through research and strengthen supporting infrastructure for digital innovation in the NHS.

The Health Secretary’s recent announcement, that in-person GP appointments will only be available for compelling clinical reasons, means that the study and its outcomes are increasingly significant for the delivery of effective care to patients. The Plymouth arm of the study will focus on the impact of these changes on those living in poverty and from marginalised groups. Researchers will work closely with the Deep End group of practices, a network of GP practices that cover the most deprived patient areas in the city, as well as the Clinical Commissioning Group.

Professor Byng, who is also a practising GP in Plymouth, said:

“While we have seen some advantages to the increased use of telephone, video and email based consultation, there are significant challenges, especially for those without the best phones, without credit and without homes, as well as for those living with frailty, mental health problems or learning difficulties. We will investigate these challenges and help support the best mix of face-to-face and remote working for these groups.”

Professor Greenhalgh said:

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