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Background The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the widespread rollout of teleconsultations across primary care services in the UK. The media's depiction of remote consultations, especially regarding their safety, is not well-established. These insights are important: newspapers' coverage of healthcare-related news can influence public perception, national policy and clinicians' job satisfaction. Aim To explore how the national newspapers in the UK depicted both the direct and indirect consequences of the remote-first approach on patient safety. Design and setting We performed thematic analysis of newspaper articles which discussed patient safety in primary care teleconsultations, published between 21st January 2021-22nd April 2022. Methods We identified relevant articles using the LexisNexis Academic UK database. We categorised data from these articles into codes before developing these into emergent themes through an iterative process. Results Across the 57 articles identified, the main safety concern identified was missed and/or delayed diagnoses over tele-appointment(s), while isolated cases of inappropriate prescribing were also reported. The media reported that the transition to a remote-first approach reduced the accessibility to primary care appointments for some groups (especially patients with lower digital literacy/access), and heightened the burden on other healthcare services: in particular, there were reports of patient care being compromised across NHS emergency departments (ED). Conclusions The media predominantly reported negative impacts of remote consultations on patient safety, particularly involving missed and/or delayed diagnoses. Our work highlights the importance of further exploration into the safety of remote consultations, and the impact of erroneous media reporting on policies and policymakers.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date