The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Coronavirus update

The coronavirus outbreak could be seen as a landmark moment for tech in the NHS, following a rapid increase in digital appointments in recent weeks.

However, the Royal College of GPs’ chair Martin Marshall has raised concerns digital does not necessarily benefit all patients.

Professor Marshall said digital appointments could be “storing up problems for the future” for the treatment of mental health patients.

He added that, while digital appointments are necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, they may make some mental health patients feel uneasy.

This could make it difficult for GPs to treat and diagnose patients with mental ill-health, according to Professor Marshall.

Meanwhile, national guidance which one leader called “prejudiced” against older people has been swiftly withdrawn by NHS England.

NHSE published a reference guide over the Easter weekend on patient management during the coronavirus pandemic, which said care home and community hospital residents “should not ordinarily be conveyed to hospital”.

The guide also said dementia patients who suffer falls or head injuries should not be taken to hospital if they are “functionally unchanged,” unless authorised by a “senior colleague”.

One senior NHS leader had concerns this raised the bar for hospital admission above what is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and said the guide “[seemed] prejudiced against older people,” placing “obstacles between vulnerable older people and ED.”

NHSE had updated its guide — removing the instructions on hospital conveyance — by 14 April, just days after the original was published.