GPs in England believe remote working supported by technology could help ease pressures in the NHS, new research has suggested.

A study by cloud communications provider Sesui found that almost half (49%) of doctors felt that current work demands were unsustainable, with 45% saying that remote working was a sensible solution.

Clinicians also felt it would make time spent with patients more productive: 43% of doctors said remote working would ultimately allow them to spend longer with their patients, while 48% said being able to take patient calls outside of the office would lead to more personalised care.

Just over 100 UK doctors took part in the study by Sesui, which also involved interviews with figures within the NHS.

The report argues flexible working would not only help ease the strain on doctors, but would also result in better care for patients. According to Sesui, one London practice hopes to offer an additional 5,000 patient appointments annually as a result of allowing its GPs to work from home for an additional two hours a week.

The report also argues that by removing the need for clinicians to commute to call centres to support out-of-hours services – such as the NHS 111 helpline – the prospect of providing advice to patients from outside of the office would become more appealing.

Dr Sam Shah, director of digital development at NHS England, said in the report: “By removing the physical boundaries of being in a call centre, we not only maximise the workforce that we have, but we also tap into other specialised skills that we couldn’t before.”

Meanwhile, patients could benefit from reduced waiting times because of the increased availability of – and access to – GPs. Shah argued there could be particular benefits for areas in which it’s currently more difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“For instance, we know that teams in South West England can struggle to recruit enough people, but there are other parts of the country that are saturated. In these instances clinicians in the more saturated parts of the country are giving their time to other areas where, at that moment in time, their need is greatest.”

NHS organisations are increasingly moving to cloud-based services as a means of scaling up quickly to meet demand, while keeping infrastructure overheads at a minimum.

In October, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust both revealed plans to deploy Citrix Workspace services, which are hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

Meanwhile, NHS England is believed to be considering a new enterprise-wide agreement (EWA) with Microsoft that would provide a path for NHS organisations to migrate to the cloud-based Office 365 platform.

Digital Health’s Cloud Summit takes place on Wednesday 24 January 2018 at Chandos House in London. It will explore how to successfully deploy cloud-based services in UK healthcare – and consider what the benefits might be. It is free to register and attend.