New research published today in The New Zealand Medical Journal shows that during lockdown GPs delivered the same level of care they usually would, just in a different way.
On 21 March 2020 The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners advised it’s 5,500 members to move to remote consultations - in the name of patient safety and preventing COVID-19 spread. In two days, GPs had changed their model of service delivery and were seeing 70 percent of their patients by phone or video.
The New Zealand Medical Journal study shows there was no reduction in service when compared to the same period in 2019. Most acute illness, accident-related and long-term condition-related consultations were able to be provided by telephone. Prevention-related medicine, like immunisations, continued to be carried out face-to-face with no change in the number delivered in 2019.
The study by Otago University’s Dr Carol Atmore and Professor Tim Stokes examined patient contact with an urban general practice during the first two weeks of Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown and compared it to the same fortnight period of the previous year. It showed that GPs were able to maintain numbers of patient consultations despite radically changing their way of working.
Dr Samantha Murton, President of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says, "this research is long-awaited commendation for our members who consistently fronted up during COVID-19, often putting themselves and their businesses at risk to serve their communities.
"GP clinics stayed open for business right through the lockdown, serving patients but avoiding the kind of health system meltdown seen in other countries, and its fabulous to have evidence of that beyond the College saying it was so."
Dr Bryan Betty is the medical director of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and said, "1000 practices and 5,500 GPs responded to the urgent needs of the country in a very short timeframe, radically changing how they delivered care.
"Longer term the changes we made during lockdown have improved how New Zealanders can see their GP; it’s given people a greater choice about where that happens and saved time and effort for them accessing healthcare," he says.
The study, Turning on a dime - pre- and post-COVID-19 consultation patterns in an urban general practice can be read in full on the Journal’s website.