Health chiefs have hailed the use of the internet to give patients a new way of consulting their doctor.
A number of GP practices across Hartlepool and Stockton are now offering online consultations as part of a national £45million investment by the NHS.
Patients are being encouraged to visit their practice’s website to start an online consultation.
Using a smartphone, tablet or computer, people can ask questions or tell their GP about their symptoms.
Clinicians say it allows patients to access safe and efficient advice from the convenience of their own home and receive a response by the end of the next working day.
If needed, a follow up phone call with the GP or nurse, or an appointment at the practice will be arranged as usual.
Dr Saleem Hassan, GP Locality Lead for NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Recent years have seen rapid development in the number of online consultation systems helping patients to connect with their GP in a new way.
“It’s not for everyone but our aim is to offer increased choice and accessibility.
“For many patients online consultations offer a quick and convenient way to access health advice without having to take time away from work or home to see a GP face to face.
“Some people also feel more comfortable talking about their problems online rather than face to face and we believe this now offers patients a new way to access advice and treatment.”
Among the information available a symptom checker featuring self-help guides and videos about common conditions, pharmacy advice, a link to the NHS 111 service and help to request a prescription.
The CCG says online consultations also free up time for GPs and other health professionals, allowing them to spend more time managing patients with complex needs.
They are in addition to other online facilities used by practices including being able to make appointments, get test results, order a repeat prescription or view their summary records.