Too Much Keyboard Time 'Could Make GPs Less Caring'

Anna Sayburn

October 25, 2019

LIVERPOOL - Computers have "devastated" the caring aspects of general practice, delegates heard at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual conference in Liverpool on Friday.

"We spend more time looking at the computer not the patient," said Dublin GP Dr Austin O'Carroll. "I think the caring aspect of general practice has been devastated. Computers definitely affect the relationship."

He was responding to a question from Professor Roger Neighbour, former president of the college and author of a classic textbook about consultations in general practice, which kicked off a 'Question Time' event at the conference, chaired by Professor Martin Marshall, chair elect of the RCGP.

Professor Neighbour had asked: "What more can be done to preserve the caring aspect of general practice?"

Dr O'Carroll said that, as well as spending too much time on computer work, complying with regulations took GPs away from time caring for patients. He proposed that the first question about any initiative should be: "What's the impact going to be on the patient relationship?"

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, outgoing chair of the college, said that stress and time pressure were major barriers to providing a caring service.

"When people are stressed, it's the compassion that goes first. We hang onto the science." She said that making 15 minutes the minimum for a standard face-to-face consultation would allow GPs to provide a service where their skills could be focused on "complex cases who really need it".

For interactions that take less time and are more straightforward, she suggested, GPs might not be the most appropriate healthcare profession for the patients to see.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, workforce lead on the GP Committee of the BMA, agreed that "the amount of time spent ticking boxes and in front of computer screens" was a significant problem. He said his practice operates standard 15 minute appointments which "makes a huge difference", with the extra 5 minutes spent "actually listening to what the patient says".

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