This willingness to change was reflected in the use of virtual appointments. In the same way many of us have become used to connecting with family or colleagues virtually, so too have we been triaged for dental appointments or seen our GPs over a screen. The public were not only willing to do this, but three-fifths (62%) now say that they are comfortable having an appointment with a GP virtually and a similar proportion (59%) say they are comfortable having a non-emergency hospital appointment in this way. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the opportunities technology brings for the NHS and the public appear to be positive about this change, with some important caveats around not leaving the digitally excluded behind.
This year, and the events that have defined it, have provided the foundation for reframing public expectations of the relationship with the NHS in a way we have not seen before. The NHS is seen as having coped brilliantly in 2020, and concern about it fell even as the second wave of infections rose. The question is whether the public will remain as loyal in 2021 and beyond, as it struggles to deal with huge waiting lists that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Certainly, the public is expecting Government to make the money it asks for available – the question will be how that money is raised.