eConsult scheme speeds up patient access to their GP practice
27 November 2018

Nine of Portsmouth’s GP practices are offering patients a new ‘fast response’ online consultation – in a bid to improve access to services.

They have introduced eConsult which involves the GP practice responding to online enquiries – usually within forty eight hours, often saving patients the need to book routine appointments.

Patients simply go on to their GP practice website, visit the online services and choose an option about whether they want help for their condition, admin help or general advice – which may involve online advice direct from their GP.

The questions are the same ones a GP would ask in a face-to-face appointment.

The practice will assess to see if they can give the patient self-care advice , or whether an appointment is required or the patient needs a prescription which could be sent to direct to the local pharmacist.

The nine GP practices already involved are:

* The Derby Road Group Practice (Stamshaw and Copnor) * East Shore Partnership (Milton) * The Guildhall Walk Healthcare Centre * John Pounds Surgery (Portsea) * Kirklands Surgery (Copnor) *Lake Road Health Centre (Landport/Buckland) * Sunnyside Medical Centre (Fratton) * The University Surgery * Portsdown Group Practice (covering the following surgeries -  Cosham Park Avenue, Heyward Road, Kingston Crescent, Paulsgrove, Somerstown and Crookhorn Lane).

It is hoped that the remaining Portsmouth GP practices will go live with eConsult in the months ahead.

Whilst it’s early days for the scheme in Portsmouth, it has been running successfully in other parts of south east Hampshire and is helping to ease pressure on GPs by reducing requests for face-to-face appointments.

More than 75% of patients who have used the service in Portsmouth have said they are very satisfied with it. One remarked:” eConsult is an absolute necessity for patients who do not need to see a doctor. They can go online to resolve the issue thus freeing up the doctors time for those who actually need and appointment. Perfect!”

In the week September 10 to 19, East Shore Partnership alone had 215 visits to its website, from 191 different people, which led to 114 patients submitting eConsult consultation forms online - which doctors estimate saved nearly 70 actual appointments.

Dr Elizabeth Fellows, a GP at East Shore who chairs NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Submitting an eConsult allows a GP to plan investigations prior to a face-to-face consultation to shorten the time it takes to sort some problems out, and on the other hand often people have a simple question that can be answered by email so that no-one has to be available to answer their phone during a working day. There is also the facility to send in photos of rashes or skin lesions which is really useful. “We have high hopes that eConsult is one way we can ease pressure on GPs by reducing the number of patients who are asking for appointments, often because they just need reassurance over an issue.

 “It’s a win/win scenario for patients – as we promise to respond to their eConsult form by the end of the next working day, although this may be longer if a form is submitted at weekends.

“We are finding that eConsult is making a real difference to our workload on Monday mornings, when the demand is highest both for our services and for people to get through to us on phone.”

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