GPs open for business – but changing the way they see patients

22 March 2020

To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 GPs have been asked to rapidly move to doing more of their consultations by phone, email and video. Patients requiring in person GP appointments will still get them, but non-urgent, routine appointments will be done via other means if possible.

"In view of the Government’s suggested restrictions announced yesterday, we believe it is important to keep vulnerable patients safe by reducing the number of people in GP waiting rooms," says College President Dr Samantha Murton.

"Patients who need to be seen by a GP will still be able to do so, but we will make that decision after first having a ‘remote’ consultation with them using text, email, phone or video," she says.

"We have not taken this decision lightly, but we have spoken with many of our health sector colleagues and Māori partners, and we are confident this is the right action to take at this time.

"For the safety of our most vulnerable patients, we have taken proactive action informing our members yesterday to get ready for this change on Monday. We’ve asked all our GPs to immediately switch to doing a virtual consult before an ‘in person’ one.

"We want patients to be assured that continuity of care will continue. Many of our elderly patients will continue to need care if they are in their homes and this is a way that we can look after them as well.

"I’m sure everyone in the country has taken onboard the message delivered yesterday by the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, that we must take every precaution we can to reduce physical contact and stop the spread of the virus.

"Family doctors in Italy have shared their learnings with us, and reducing non-essential in person consults is a key message that we can, and must, take onboard.

‘We recognise that other health concerns continue on around us and the provision of care for everyone needs to be timely and safe.

"Every practice will work out a system that works for their individual circumstances, and we have recommended contacting their patients to explain how their own system will work.

"These are extraordinary times and require extraordinary measures. We are at a crossroad. If we do not act immediately, we will lose an important opportunity to help control this virus."