Remote GP calls may have contributed to five deaths, says coroner
Remote GP appointments may have been a contributing factor in the deaths of five people who did not see their doctor face to face, a coroner has concluded.
Alison Mutch, senior coroner for Greater Manchester South, said important information missed in telephone appointments may have been acted on if they were seen in person. Ms Mutch has asked Health Secretary Sajid Javid and NHS England to take action to tackle risks associated with remote appointments, a Health Service Journal investigation found.
One woman, Fadhia Seguleh, who had phone call appointments with her GP about her anxiety and depression, killed herself in her own home on Feb 25. The coroner said the lack of access to her doctor in person made it harder to assess her needs.
The deaths of three other people, who died from a fatal blood clot in the lung, undiagnosed Covid and a drug overdose, were also the subject of Ms Mutch's concerns. A fifth patient, an elderly man with severe underlying health conditions, died after breaking a bone that was not spotted by hospital doctors and his GP in a phone call consultation.
It comes amid previous concerns that moving away from in-person appointments can lead to missed diagnoses.
One of the deaths involved Maurice Leech, who died on April 30 last year in Thorncliffe Grange Nursing Home in Manchester after A&E doctors and his GP during a virtual appointment failed to realise he had broken his femur during a virtual appointment.
He was admitted to hospital after an accidental fall and medics did not given the correct x-ray. In another case, Steven Allen died on Oct 26 in his Stockport home after taking a fatal level of prescribed medicine. He had a history of drug addiction and was prescribed medicines including strong painkiller oxycodone through a consultation with his GP that happened via a phone call as a result of Covid.
The other deaths of concern to Ms Mutch involved Stanislaw Zielinski, who died on June 2 from cardiac arrest and a blocked blood vessel in his lung, after he had been hospitalised after falling out of his window.
Mr Zielinski, who was suffering from insomnia and anxiety, told his GP of his mental state one year earlier, but his appointments were limited to phone calls because of the pandemic. Brian Mottram, meanwhile, died in Tameside on Nov 16 from undiagnosed Covid after feeling unwell for a week. Two days before he was found unresponsive, Mr Mottram had a phone appointment with his GP.
Ms Mutch sent five reports to health authorities - including local trusts, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and NHS England - asking them to take action, according to the Health Service Journal.
Earlier this month The Telegraph revealed almost 1,000 GP practices have been ordered to improve patient access, amid growing concern about the number of patients struggling to see a family doctor.