A groundbreaking online patient information service is being piloted in Torbay to help people get the right treatment they need at the right place.
In addition to face-to-face consultations, Chelston Hall Surgery’s website is now using online consultation technology.
This brings together a range of online self-help tools such as symptom-checkers, instructive video content created by GPs, and advice about the various places a patient can get help, including pharmacies, the NHS 111 helpline or an available app.
A registered patient can also fill out an online e-consultation form, which will then be reviewed by a GP, before a response is sent to the patient within one working day.
The system is already available to more than one million patients nationwide, but this is the first time it has been used in South Devon and Torbay.
Dr Shinoy Kurup, the Torquay surgery’s lead GP for the project, said: “We believe this system can be hugely beneficial for our patients and for the surgery because it will speed up patients’ access to health advice and ensure that patients who need to see a GP are able to get an appointment more quickly.
“When a patient sends a completed online form about their condition, a GP will then contact the patient to offer advice, say whether an appointment is needed, or issue a prescription.
“Because the service is online, it means that patients will have access to the information they need at a time that is convenient to them, 24 hours a day.
“This should result in better health outcomes, because patients will be getting the information they need sooner, and as we’ll be directing patients to the right place for their symptoms at the right time, there will be improved efficiency for the practice and other services, such as A&E.
“Of course, if a patient’s symptoms show something serious, this will be flagged straightaway and they will be instructed to go to A&E.”
If the pilot proves to be a hit with patients, it is expected to be rolled out to practices across South Devon and Torbay, thanks to NHS England funding.
Dr John McCormick, chief clinical information officer at South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This has great potential for patients and for practices.
“The e-consultations generally take GPs three minutes to complete, as opposed to the average 10 minutes for a face-to-face consultation, so doctors will be able to work even more efficiently.
“It couldn’t be more timely, because GPs’ workload has never been more pressured, with people living longer and consequently having more complex health issues, which in turn puts greater demands on the health service.
“There are amazing breakthroughs in technology every day, and the health service should be taking advantage of these developments.
“The online consultation system has gone through rigorous tests, by GPs and other health experts, so patients can be assured that it is a reliable and proven service.
“I believe that anything that speeds the process of seeing the health professional you need as soon as possible in an efficient and safe way has to be welcomed.”Follow