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03.04.19

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust shows the way forward for accessible healthcare

Source: NHE March/April 2019

Dr Chris Whittle, NHS doctor and one of the leaders of technology designed to make healthcare more accessible for patients, tells more on Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust’s work on becoming the first NHS trust in the country to offer video consultations for cardiology patients.

The NHS Long-Term Plan sets out how technology will be used to make it easier to access healthcare, reducing long waits and time spent travelling to appointments. There’s a great example of this at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust (LGT), which recently became the first NHS trust in the country to offer video consultations for cardiology patients – enabling them to get the specialist advice they need without the hassle of travelling to hospital. The pilot service was introduced in January this year by consultant cardiologist Dr Zeeshan Khawaja.

He explains: “We believe we are the first NHS trust in the country to offer video consultations for specialist care. This is a fantastic service for patients who have been discharged from our A&E and referred for a follow-up cardiac appointment. Video appointments enable us as specialist healthcare professionals to engage rapidly with these patients to ensure that they get the care they need in a timely manner. We can provide important expert advice and arrange further tests where necessary without the need for patients to return to hospital, having already been seen in the emergency department.

“Offering video consultations is not only convenient for patients, but it also makes sure that we don’t lose the personal rapport that we build. We can also be more flexible, offering appointments at times that suit our patients. It also frees up clinicians’ time and allows us to see a greater number of patients with complex cardiovascular problems more quickly, while still delivering a high-quality service. So far, we’ve received great feedback, and I’m sure that this type of service will become commonplace in the next few years.”  

David Meynell, from Welling, Kent, was one of the first patients to benefit from the service. He said: “I have multiple sclerosis and coming to hospital is a hassle; I have to get a cab and it is quite expensive. Phone calls feel very impersonal, but having a video appointment felt just like I was talking to my consultant in person, which really put me at ease. I just used my smartphone and it was great getting all the advice I needed without making a trip to the hospital.”

The technology is already being used by 75 GP practices, but LGT is the first NHS trust to offer hospital appointments via video link for patients who require cardiology outpatient support. Of course, hospital appointments will continue to be provided for patients who require, or would prefer to see a healthcare professional in person, or who don’t have a smartphone.

It’s great to see modernisation of a health service traditionally delivered in person; the transition to secure video makes it very convenient for patients and we’re very excited to see a specialist service putting it into practice. As well as reducing the practical challenges and costs of travelling for specialist advice for patients, it also enables hospitals to continue delivering high-quality care, whilst creating efficiencies within overstretched NHS budgets.

Professor Tony Young, national clinical lead for innovation for NHS England, said: “As a junior doctor, Chris joined NHS England’s clinical entrepreneur programme. Since then, he’s developed his platform for digital and video consultation services. It’s fantastic to see one of our clinical entrepreneurs helping the NHS with this partnership, which is exactly the type of new service for patients the NHS wants to see more of as we set out in the long-term plan.”

 

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