A new 24/7 online service across Hampshire to give adults medical advice via their GP website is already freeing up more time for doctors to see the patients who most need their help.
Patients from 16 GP practices in West Hampshire are already benefiting from the way that eConsult – the name of this new service – offers them a convenient way of easily accessing medical advice.
eConsult has been launched by Better Local Care (BLC) in Hampshire, the initiative which aims to simplify how people access health and social care in their community by removing the red tape that often causes delays. The service is being trialled in a number of parts of Hampshire and has improved access to services for thousands of people across the area since the trail began rolling out in the summer.
It is also likely to help relieve pressure on busy acute hospital Emergency Departments this winter, as patients get earlier access to healthcare or advice before their conditions deteriorate.
The GP web service helps patients decide if they really need to see a GP or find out what other options are available to them. eConsult offers:
- self-help information
- signposting to services
- a symptom checker which can help them establish whether they need a GP appointment
- an online service to get advice from their own GP for non-urgent health conditions.
Findings so far show that over 1,500 people a week have used eConsult in Hampshire. Since the pilot started in July more than 3,500 GP appointments have been saved.
Dr Karl Graham, Clinical Director for IT at NHS West Hampshire CCG and a GP in Hedge End, said:
“This new online tool means patients receive advice on a whole range of common conditions quickly any time of the day or night. I know as a GP that often my patients aren’t completely sure whether they need to see me or not. By using this new tool, they can get the information they need and if a GP appointment isn’t necessary, they will receive advice on what to do and where to get help.
“This is a really exciting project and patients across the whole of Hampshire will be benefiting from this. My practice in Hedge End has already got involved and I know many others are about to introduce it.”
Dr Andrew Powell and Dr Chris Cole, local GPs from Totton and Waterside, said:
“The pilot study suggests that eConsult can bring huge benefits for both patients and GP practices, giving better access to health advice and ensuring that people who need to see a GP are able to get an appointment more quickly.
“We need to adapt the way we deliver primary care to continue to provide for the needs of today’s population, to ensure that people can access the most appropriate response for their needs in a timely way and to ensure that our services remain sustainable. This means making a more effective use of the resources, including GP time, at our disposal.
“eConsult will provide faster access for patients at a time convenient to them, in the comfort of their own home; and, we hope, better health outcomes as patients are able get help earlier, while also improving practice efficiency by encouraging patients to appropriately self-manage."
How it works
Patients go to their practice website and click the eConsult option. This action takes them to a different website which asks them what they want.
Many visitors seeking information on a range of health issues find out what they want immediately – giving them 24/7 healthcare. In an earlier pilot study, 60% of patients were able to resolve their health concerns without visiting the practice.
Patients who do decide to submit a request for GP advice (it’s a questionnaire) will receive a response by the end of the next working day – and usually much faster. The practice contacts each patient to let them know the outcome of the eConsult, which could include being offered an appointment, talking to a healthcare professional over the phone or collecting a prescription.
The following practices in the West Hampshire CCG area are involved in the pilot:
Adelaide Medical Centre, Andover
Charlton Hill Surgery, Andover
St Mary's Surgery, Andover
The Friarsgate Practice, Weeke, Winchester
Bishops Waltham Surgery, Bishops Waltham
Stokewood Surgery, Fair Oak, Eastleigh
Wickham Surgery, Wickham
Blackthorne Health Centre, Hamble
Hedge End Medical Centre, Southampton
Red and Green Practice, Hythe
The Arnewood Practice, New Milton
New Milton Health Centre, New Milton
Barton and Webb-Peploe, Lymington
Chawton House Surgery, Lymington
Wistaria and Milford Surgery, Milford-on-Sea
Lyndhurst Surgery, Lyndhurst
West End Surgery, West End
St Luke's Surgery, Hedge End
Waterfront and Solent Surgery, Hythe
Brockenhurst Surgery and Sway Surgery, (New Forest Medical Group)
About Better Local Care
Better Local Care is a partnership between local NHS and care organisations, GPs and charities which aims to improve out-of-hospital care in Hampshire. It is doing this by removing unnecessary red tape, improving access, and helping care professionals from different organisations work together more effectively – so more people receive the right support, at the right time and place. Better Local Care is part of the national NHS Vanguard programme to pilot new ways of planning and delivering care across England. The partnership was established in March 2015.