by Dr Murray Ellender

Online NHS GP service a hit in West Hampshire

Patients in the West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group area – which includes Ringwood, Fordingbridge and Milford-on-Sea – are embracing the internet when it comes to their healthcare.

The CCG said the number of local GP surgeries offering patients online consultations has doubled in 18 months. Nearly 400,000 patients from 33 practices in the West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area can now use ‘eConsult’ to check their symptoms, get advice or send questions and pictures to their GP.

The CCG said that in April 2018, 5,500 patients used eConsult, with eighty per cent of them saying they were likely, or extremely likely, to recommend it to family and friends.

West Hampshire CCG first introduced the online service in December 2016 as a pilot project across 16 practices.

Medical Director, Dr Adrian Higgins said: “eConsult offers people new and flexible ways to ‘see’ their GP without the need for an actual appointment in the surgery.

“It is a safe and effective way for patients to get information or advice and if anyone has critical or serious medical symptoms, eConsult will automatically flag this so they can quickly seek urgent care and attention.”

He said that on average, 70 per cent of online consultations are resolved by email or telephone, which frees up GP appointments.

The system works like this. Patients are directed to the eConsult website from their practice website and submit a request for GP advice following completion of a series of
questions.They then receive a response by the end of the next working day although, said the CCG, it is usually much faster. They can then be offered an appointment, the chance to speak to a healthcare professional over the phone, or be given a prescription.

The CCG believes that eConsult provides faster access for patients at a time convenient to them. It said that many patients seeking information on a range of health issues find out what they want immediately – giving them healthcare 24/7.

This article originally appeared in the Bournemouth Echo