Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Scrubbing Up: Your comments

The BBC News website has launched a weekly column where leading clinicians and experts outline their views on health topics.

In this week's column, Professor Nick Bosanquet, director of the centre-right think-tank Reform, says virtual hospitals and remote diagnosis are the future.

The following is a selection of the comments we have received:


I love to see future ideas and innovation, but let's get real shall we? So far there have been major issues with creating a safe, confidential NHS spine to allow hospitals and GPs to share data. I don't think we are quite ready for results by text message, when we can't guarantee the security and confidentiality of existing systems.
Sara Furness, Manchester

I'm currently studying A-levels hoping to get into medical school and become a doctor. The idea of "virtual hospitals" and doctors being there merely to "text people test results" is stupid. Hospitals and doctors are there to reassure people and doctors need a certain relationship with patients in order to give them the best care possible. Healthcare shouldn't be compromised in favour of money.
Darius, Wales

There is great value in also giving patients the tools and knowledge to allow them to collect and assess information about themselves in order to give them the best chance of keeping healthy and reducing risk of disease (or disease progression). The danger with such computer systems lies in doctors and patients switching to autopilot - as exemplified by people who get lost when their sat-navs fail. Common sense and professional judgement and oversight must be preserved at all costs and all stages of the process.
Dr Gordon Brooks, Gosport

In Leeds you can already get STI results texted back to you. As for seeing a GP - don't hold your breath. At my surgery you have to be almost dying (if you are dying you get sent to A&E). If you're not almost dying you get the clinical nurse calling you back and telling you what to do over the phone. Even two years ago when I came down with Norovirus all I got was a phone call (after my mum had called my local surgery from her home in Suffolk) to tell me to drink plenty and stay confined to my room. It's one thing having telephone banking but e-health? No thanks!
Jennie Fisher, Leeds

I recently attended an outpatient clinic that was two hours behind schedule. If I had received a text to let me know about the delay before I left work I could have given two more productive hours rather than sitting in a hospital waiting room. That's a very simple use of technology that hospitals could implement now.
Jean Parr, St Helens

I already get text alerts to remind me of doctors appointments which are brilliant bearing in mind the length of time you have to make them in advance these days!
Claire Kirby, Reading

Excellent idea, but it will take decades for the monolithic NHS to be so imaginative. I complained nearly 20 years ago to King's College hospital about them still keeping records on paper (and losing them), and the NHS still hasn't digitised records. And why not implement simple and convenient cost-cutting measures like emailing appointments to patients instead of automatically posting them?
Dr Clive Tolley, Chester

It sounds like a good idea. But what happens when something goes wrong? Doctors will have to take the blame for misdiagnosing, even though they weren't present in person to carry out the full examination. Could this route be another short cut?
Amit Rama, Leicester

I have been a beneficiary of the virtual system already. The results of a routine blood test (for PSA) taken at my surgery are advised to a local consultant. If there are no problems he writes to me to say all is OK and have a further test in six months time. In the past I would visit the hospital for the results often wasting my time and the consultant's time. However if any results are not satisfactory then I would be called in to see the consultant to discuss treatment. Also if I am not happy then I can arrange an appointment to see my GP or consultant. Great system.
Dennis Stones, Wateringbury, Kent

There is a role for text/internet based results of tests if this decreases the time where the patient is anxiously waiting for the outcome and there was a guarantee of maintaining patient confidentiality. The genitourinary clinic at the hospital where I work texts people their negative results (from an anonymous number that just says all the tests are negative) and sends a text saying "please phone" if there is bad news. This seems to work very successfully and could expand to other tests, particularly in a GP setting where you would only need to see your GP if you have a positive result that needs discussing.
Dr Tom Blincoe, Bournemouth

I think this would be an appropriate add-on to current provision. It is already being used in part when ordering prescriptions and such like. It would not replace the existing service, but would play an additional and vital part of our health service. It would be an excellent idea transcending current treatment in to the next generation of health care in the UK.
Margaret E Langstaff, York

This is wrong. There is no way that this should even be considered. Virtual hospitals? What a joke. I would feel a lot more cared for and safe going into a building full of doctors, consultants, nurses and care staff than getting a text telling me that I have diabetes or don't have the flu. Dont do it!
Adam Macpherson, Aberdeen

Whilst there is some merit in stream lining the way in which routine test results get processed, I think this is just another cost cutting measure doomed to fail and put millions in the pocket of government's IT contractors. We are really losing sight of what is important in this country in terms of health care: doctors, nurses and cleaners! Elderly people are petrified to go into hospitals with any complaint because of the fear of MRSA. Good old-fashioned matron discipline is needed.
Nicholas Hammonds, Leicester

My previous GP was always available by email for minor health issues as to what action I should take or if I should make an appointment to see him. Prescription queries and renewals were always dealt with by email. Sadly he retired and the new GP although younger is not using email effectively. Before, a medical query would get a reply within an hour. Now they are just ignored and only the repeat prescription address is answered and that can take 24 hours. Tremendous potential, great reassurance for the patient, but an opportunity that is being wasted.
Gordon Hayward, Swindon



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