Almost one in three people expect to be able to have a consultation with their GP via webcam in ten years’ time, according to a survey by Virgin Media Business.

The survey of 2,172 people, conducted by YouGov, also found that 11% of respondents thought that would be able to interact with their GP using red button technology on their television by 2020.

On the other hand, 56% expect to use walk-in units near their place of work to access health services and 74% expect to continue to have face-to-face appointments with their GP.

Virgin’s business to business telecoms arm commissioned the poll to assess how multichannel customer services available in the private sector had affected public expectations of NHS services.

The survey found 40% of respondents felt NHS communication channels were worse or much than those offered by private sector bodies such as banks, supermarkets and utility providers. However, 31% thought NHS services were better.

Most respondents reported that they found it easy to book an appointment with their GP over the telephone (75%) but only 17% said it was easy to do so online.

Respondents said they would most like to access remote services such as NHS Direct by telephone (43%) or online (34%). Just 7% said they would like to do so via email and 2% via an iPhone application.

David Astley, head of health for Virgin Media Business, told EHI Primary Care that Virgin was already working with a small number of partners to enable GPs to hold consultations via webcam. He expected the first packages to be delivered this year.

He added: “The technology exists today. The challenge is to make it simple and straightforward so anybody can actually use it.”

Astley said Virgin Media Business had seen a marked increase in conversations with the NHS about use of technology to increase efficiencies over the last three to four months.

He said projects the company was working on included remote diagnosis of stroke sufferers via high definition video in Cumbria and Lancashire and use of video to deliver telehealth services in Yorkshire.

Lee Hull, Virgin Media Business’s public service director, said it was no surprise that time-strapped people were positive about multichannel customer service and said the NHS had already made huge progress in providing different ways for people to get medical advice.

He added: “As more NHS bodies start making greater use of shared networks, there’s every reason to believe that the way people get medical help and advice will change beyond recognition ion a few short years.

"High speed communications delivered over fibre optic networks will mean that developments the public is keen to see, such as seeing their GP via webcam, are not only possible but affordable too.”