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Researchers from the University said video calls stop doctors from “noticing subtle clues that could point to serious illness like cancer” as the resolution of the patient on screen isn’t the same as real life.
As a result, there may be certain signs that could indicate cancer that the GP can’t spot and which could significantly affect the life of the patient.
Furthermore, the study added: “Not having the patient in front of them could prevent the GP from seeing the full picture of their condition or make the use of clinical intuition difficult.”
The conclusions of the study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, have been reached after interviews with staff from 17 GP practices.
This wouldn’t be the first time the affect on the health of the nation has been observed as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns as well as the virus itself.
During the first national lockdown there was a marked drop in people reporting to their GP amid fears they would add to pressure on the NHS, or people were afraid to venture out of the house.
As a result, it is believed by some charities that several thousands of early stage cancers have been missed, cancers which have now moved onto phases where they are harder to treat.
Cancer Research UK’s Shaun Walsh said of the missed cases: “We continue to encourage anyone to contact their GP if they notice any worrying changes to their health, and to keep trying if they have any difficulties getting through.”
Although remote appointments were brought in to add an element of Covid safety, this wasn’t universally helpful as some patients struggled with the technology.
Lead author the study, Dr Claire Friedemann Smith said: “We probably won’t know the full extend of the impact of Covid on cancer diagnosis for some time, but primary care will be central to the recovery.
“Primary care has to be supported to overcome the pressures that Covid worsened but have bene building since before the pandemic.”
Before the first national lockdowns, the NHS was already overstretched after years of cuts and changes which negatively impacted the service patients were receiving.
The Royal College of GP’s Dr Gary Howsam said of cancer care in 2022: “Against a backdrop of increasing workload and falling GP numbers, overall referrals by GPs through rapid suspected cancer pathways are 20 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels.
“What’s more, more than 75 percent of patients who are found to have cancer are being referred after just one or two consultations, showing that GPs are doing a good job at identifying suspected cancers and referring appropriately.”
Away from cancer care, GP appointments have come in for fresh eyes as the Conservative leadership contest continues as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss fight to win over a small portion of the public.
Earlier in the contest, GP appointments were brought under scrutiny as Sunak proposed a £10 fine for anyone who missed an appointment.
The announcement has come under scrutiny given the looming cost of living crisis and economic pressures this will entail.
Sunak’s proposal was one part of his plan to help ease the NHS backlog and one which would be a temporary measure.
Meanwhile, GPs continue to work long hours with a growing number of patients coming to terms with physical and mental health woes.
As the year continues, this patient cohort is expected to rise and there are concerns about the health of the NHS both during and after 2022.
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