Early success for online health consultation work in Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees

The number of patients using online services is rising
The number of patients using online services is rising

An online consultation scheme has been praised for its work in Hartlepool since it was launched earlier this year.

Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)  and Darlington CCG have both recently signed up to the E-consult provider looking at providing online consultations to patients.

So far 16 practices across the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees area are providing online consultations since the service went live in October.

As of the end of November more than 1,000 online consultations were submitted by patients, leading to 141 self help visits and 46 pharmacy self help visits.

McKenzie Group in Hartlepool has received the most online consultations, with 514 submitted since the service went live.

The CCG has since been working with the practice to share its work across the area and feedback so far has been the practice pushed promotion and used online consultations as the first option once its capacity is full.

Nick Timlin, senior partner at McKenzie Group Practice, said the service has been well received so far by both patients and GPs.

The governing body member and locality lead for Hartlepool said: “Most people are really pleased.

“A lot of it is just little queries that if they made an appointment for, from the GPs point of view, it is now so much easier just to relax and think I’ll do that now.

“That’s instead of ploughing through thinking someone is waiting 20 minutes and rushing through.

“That’s the good thing I’ve found.

“Internally we’ve done an audit, there are a few patients saying ‘how can a doctor do a consultation online’ but it’s only a couple of people.”

CCG bosses also said the practice explains to patients this option could meaning having to avoid queueing in practice and they also offer help to patients to complete an online from without computer access.

Online consultations are not mandatory across the CCG and practices who want to trial the consultation type were given a one off start up payment of £1,000.

This includes staff taking clinical and non-clinical training in their practice displaying posters and banners promoting the service and alerting patients via text and phone calls to the online service.

In February a session will take place to invite practices along to hear from those already involved in the E-consult system.

Karen Hawkins, director of commissioning and transformation at the CCG, said: “We’ve got some real champions of the scheme.

“Across both localities its been really positive in terms of the number of practices taking it forward and we hope to continue to grow that.

“It’s one of those pilots, there has been very limited funding, it isn’t mandatory, but practices are really taking it on board as a new way of working.”

The work so far was presented at the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG and Darlington CCG primary care commissioning committee meeting held at The Old Exchange in Barnard Street.

Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service