PATIENTS could have more face-to-face time with their GPS as a new online advice system is trialled.
Practices across south Hampshire, including Fareham, Gosport, Havant and Waterlooville, are trialling a scheme in which patients get their medical advice through an online system called eConsult.
With the increased pressure on GPs, we need to change the way we do things so that we continue to provide for the needs of today’s population by ensuring that patients access the most appropriate response for their needs in a timely wayDr Tom Bertram
The aim of the initiative is to free up GPs’ time to see patients who need their help the most, and it is already having an impact.
It was first rolled out to practices in the summer and has since provided medical help to thousands of patients.
The system works by pinpointing whether the patient really needs to see a GP face-to-face, finds out the options available to them and then offers them self-help information, signposting to other services and advice for non-urgent health conditions.
Patients head to the practice website, click the eConsult option and then provide information on healthcare in a questionnaire and hear a response back by the end of the next day.
Dr Tom Bertram, of the Jubilee Surgery in Titchfield and the clinical lead for the countrywide project, said: ‘eConsult is already benefitting patients, GP practices and the NHS in general – speeding up access to health advice and ensuring that people who need to see a GP are able to get an appointment more quickly.
‘With the increased pressure on GPs, we need to change the way we do things so that we continue to provide for the needs of today’s population by ensuring that patients access the most appropriate response for their needs in a timely way.
‘This means making a more effective use of the resources at our disposal, including GP time. It is a win-win scenario. In my own practice, it is saving 13 appointments a week.’
A total of 26 practices across the area, excluding Portsmouth, have signed up to the eConsult scheme.
Norma Christison, senior project manager, says she understands it eConsult may be a ‘culture shock’ to some.
She added: ‘The convenience of the service will appeal to many as they can avoid some appointments.
‘Only one in 10 patients who use it are expected to still need to see a GP.’