In Scotland, people are being encouraged into getting their medical advice online, via a tool called NHS inform.
For members of the public who have symptoms like coughs, colds, dizziness, aches and pains could be “re-routed” to online “self-help” guides instead of calling a nurse.
One of the reasons for this change is because there has been growing pressures for the NHS to “plug a $450 million funding shortfall by 2017.”
Empowering the public to treat minor symptoms is not a foreign concept, we do it all the time for our families and friends. However, when the NHS promotes this and the fact that there has been a strong link between this and the NHS’ economic pressures; the atmosphere for debate and divided opinion is set.
There have been some critics for this move. Dr Jean Turner, Chief Executive of the Scotland Patients Association saying “This is dangerous. Doctors and nurses are always at a disadvantage if they don’t have a patient in front of them, and if they are at a disadvantage then so is the patient. What is the point in training doctors for medical degrees if we are just going to have patients diagnosing themselves?”
A supporter of the new initiative, Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative health said “Innovation is always welcome in our health service. Given the increasing demand on surgeries, doctors and other frontline staff, these new methods could prove highly effective. With the abundance of communications technology now available, it makes sense to explore new ways of bringing patients the medical advice they need.”
Could we see a similar system in the UK soon? How would the UK population react to an initiative similar to this?