Health chiefs hope to launch online consultations in Hartlepool to boost staff recruitment and retention problems

Health chiefs are hoping to launch online consultations to improve services for patients.
Health chiefs are hoping to launch online consultations to improve services for patients.

Care bosses are hoping all practices in the town will be able to offer online health consultation to patients by the end of this financial year.

NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has given an update on changes being implemented to primary care in the area, including a focus on using technology to help patients.

The CCG is part of the North East Online Consultation Collaboration service to help give patients medical advice online, with more than 340 requests submitted so far.

It comes as a presentation to the Primary Care Commissioning Committee stated GP and nurse recruitment, staff retirement and retention were three main issues they were facing.

But there are hopes new initiatives such as expanding online services could help ease the burden.

Emma Joyeux, Commissioning Lead for Primary Care, said: “Patients can go through an online portal and fill in a form.

“It would detail what they would want to see a doctor about and some of the issues can be dealt with virtually instead of them having to come in for an appointment.

“It’s very early days but the feedback for it has been quite good.”

She said the ambition of the CCG is that 100% of the practices they cover will be able to offer e-consultations in 2018/19.

The plans for the new features come as figures showed Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (HaST) CCG was above the North East average for patients per nurse and per GP.

The average number of patients per nurse is 4,757, compared to the North East average of 4,512.

Meanwhile the average per GP is 2,330, compared to 2,141 for the region.

However care bosses have also outlined several other plans to improve patient services as they battle problems with staff recruitment and retention.

Mrs Joyeux said: “We just need to try and give practice staff tools and techniques to make most of their time.

“We’re doing things we can to make primary care more sustainable.

“It’s a real integrated approach to how future services can be delivered.”

The HaST CCG is part of the NHS GP retention scheme, looking at retaining GPs approaching retirement.

Statistics noted 7 GPs out of 160 covered by the CCG are 67 or over, while another 4 are 61 to 66 and 16 are between 56 and 60.

Mrs Joyeux also said the CCG is looking to improve services through the GP International Recruitment scheme.

The initiative is part of the North East model which has been established to streamline the approach to international recruitment and bring in more than 100 GPs across the North East.

Additionally it is offering the GP Extended Access initiative, looking to give people medical help and advice at evenings and weekends.

The CCG also said there was positive news with a recent survey on general practice appointment satisfaction showing it was almost in line with the national average.

The survey showed 65% of respondents served by the HaST CCG were satisfied with appointments available to them, compared to 66% nationally.

Meanwhile 19% were dissatisfied according to the survey, compared to 17% nationally.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service