Patients from across Weston-super-Mare have given a thumbs-up to a new digital system called askmyGP that allows patients to contact and get advice from their GPs online.
Six GP practices are currently using the new system which launched locally in January and plans are in hand to roll it out across more practices over the coming weeks.
Initial feedback from patients has been very positive so far.
Over 70% of the 889 of patients who responded to a survey were impressed with the speed of the system, with around two thirds feeling it was easy to use and solved their problem.
“The initial feedback from patients has been really encouraging,” said Dr John Heather, GP at New Court Surgery, which has implemented the system. “We want to make it easier for patients to access the right service for their needs.”
One Weston practice manager was able to describe a particular example of how the new system had worked for a patient.
“At around 11.25am an online request arrived from a worried mother for her seven week old baby. Having reviewed it, we called her at 11.30am and asked if she was able to attend an appointment at 11.50am. The result was her child was seen 25 minutes later.
“Although it’s early days, we’ve found that we have been freeing up appointment slots that used to be taken up by requests for general advice or those who insisted on being seen by a GP.
“Our reception team is loving it already and our clinical colleagues are able to organise their own clinics and message those patients they are offering advice to.
“It is fantastic being able to offer the service that we did for the seven week old baby and be able to see those patients who really need to be seen, rather than those who get through first.”
Using askmyGP, patients can contact their practice on the day they require an appointment and depending on their need, they will either be given self-help advice, have their request dealt with over the phone or by email, or be offered an appointment with a GP or healthcare professional.
The online service also means patients can avoid unnecessary visits to their practice as a GP or health professional may be able to help over the phone, by secure message or by using a video link.
askmyGP is part of programme of work called the Intensive Support Scheme (ISS), which is being undertaken by NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The CCG was awarded £400,000 by NHS England to work with Weston and Worle GP practices to support GP retention and help improve services for patients in Weston, Worle, Banwell and Winscombe as part of the Healthy Weston programme.
The Weston and Worle area is one of only seven ISS sites created across the country, and secured the funding due to greater number of GPs and nurses nearing retirement age, the ratio of patients to GPs, and the long-term recruitment and retention problems.