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Shropshire Star comment: Personal touch is still vital

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

It is understandable that the NHS would wish to harness technology and use it to make savings.

It is one of many industries that can benefit from the advances made in a scientific era where communication has never been easier.

Our ability to send messages electronically around the world, to converse across digital screens or to send large documents via the internet has revolutionised the way we live and work.

Yet for all of the benefits that this age of technological revolution has bought, there is one thing that can never be replaced; the human touch.

And so plans to do away with hospital and doctor appointments to make way for increased use of video calling is worrying.

Those who use such services as Skype and Zoom will know that there is no replacement for face-to-face contact. They are a perfectly good solution when it is impossible to be there in person, but a poor relation when direct contact is possible.

They are unable to portray accurate body language and much can be lost in translation. They are also subject to the problems of a lost connection, patchy wifi or other technical gremlins.

And so while we would all like technology to be used advantageously, we ought to observe a few red lines.

There will be many who are elderly, vulnerable or have learning difficulties who will be excluded from video appointments. What will become of them?

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And who will be accountable and responsible when a doctor says he or she misheard a message on Skype, or failed to see a mark or rash because of a pixellated screen?

And so caution is necessary as we look to the future and to the introduction of technology in our beloved NHS. No price can be put on a life and while the nation continues to express angst about Brexit, important domestic issues require attention.

And as attractive as it seems to save large sums by decreasing the number of human appointments, the idea will inevitably lead to the risk of misdiagnosis of some illnesses, with potentially catastrophic effects.

For that reason, such ideas must be scrutinised and tested rigorously before they are introduced.

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