Comment

19.12.18

Bringing GPs online in Darlington

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 2018

A number of GP practices across Darlington have begun offering online consultations to patients as part of a national £45m investment by the NHS. Dr Saleem Hassan of NHS Darlington CCG reports.

Online consultations come as part of a two-year pilot by NHS Darlington CCG. Our patients are being encouraged to avoid waiting times and simply visit their practice website to start an online consultation.

The benefit is that it allows patients to access safe and efficient advice for their health conditions, as well as being able to submit a query to their GP from the convenience of their own home and receive a response by the end of the next working day. There is also information available, including a symptom checker, pharmacy advice, link to NHS 111, and help to request a prescription.

The pilot is part of the ongoing GP Forward View investment in to primary care launched by NHS England to help support patients and clinicians to trial further new ways of accessing healthcare.

The £45m fund has been created nationally to stimulate the use of online consultations and contribute towards the costs for CCGs to purchase online consultation systems on behalf of practices.

Recent years have seen the rapid development of a number of online consultation systems for patients to connect with their general practice. Using a mobile app or online portal, it improves access for patients to tell the practice about their query or problem and receive a reply, prescription, callback or other kind of appointment.

Online consultations can free up time for GPs, allowing them to spend more time managing complex needs as some issues can be resolved by the patient themselves, or by another member of the practice team. Other online consultations are managed by the GP entirely remotely, with approximately only a third of online consultations requiring follow-up with a face-to-face appointment.

We really want to harness that new technology. We are keen to stress that we know online consultations are not for everyone, but our aim is to offer increased choice and accessibility. This is not about replacing face-to-face GP consultations if that’s what patients prefer; itʼs all about offering new and different ways to consult with your GP that benefit patients and doctors.

For many patients, online consultations offer a quick and convenient way to access health advice without having to take time away from work or home to see a GP in person, and many may feel more comfortable not having that face-to-face interaction.

Adopting new ways of working, including online consultations, will support practices to manage ever-increasing demand in a new way.

All practices in Darlington were offered the opportunity to sign up to be part of the trial and were invited to a series of engagement and training sessions to hear more about online consultations. As a result, a number of practices chose to launch online consultations through their practice website.

We have launched a marketing campaign to promote the use of online consultations to the public locally, and our practices have had marketing support to promote online consultations via their practice website, which is where we are driving people to visit for further details.

Following a survey of patients, we have had some great feedback. Comments included: “Very good way of getting advice without taking up an appointment,” “The advice is delivered quickly within the timescale given and is very clear and easy to understand,” “Brilliant, will be using again if needed,” and “I received excellent advice and a prompt reply, could not fault this service.”

 

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