In this article from the Evening Standard, patients are being urged to contact doctors online for medical advice rather than turning up at hospital.
A trial is under way at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, that seeks to deter patients from attending its urgent care centre without first seeking other ways of obtaining treatment.
An expanded Urgent Care Centre (UCC) was unveiled last September as part of a £30 million refurbishment of the hospital following the axing of its A&E department in 2011. Patients are required to log symptoms and personal details on a tablet computer on arrival.
The system gathers a “patient history”, saving time at the start of each appointment, and ensures that the most poorly are seen first. Doctors want to go further and encourage patients to log on before leaving home — believing that many visits can be avoided.
Bexley is piloting a national initiative to modernise the way patients interact with the health service. A total of 25 of 27 GP surgeries in the borough have adopted new technology — either on their websites or via the NHS Online app — that enables patients to communicate with a doctor and get a response within 24 hours.
The UCC is open 24/7 and sees about 200 patients a day. It is run by GPs and nurse practitioners, many with an A&E background. Dr Murray Ellender, a partner in the Hurley Group, which runs the UCC, said about two-thirds of patients “don’t need to be here”. He wants more to contact their GP in the first instance, rather than setting off for the “shiny new hospital”.
He added: “We are trying to triage people from home — to encourage people to go online, either to their GP practice website or through the app. We have got too much activity coming in here that really should have gone to a GP. But patients are ringing their GP and can’t get an appointment until Friday, or they are not sure if they have a ‘GP-type problem’. About 60 per cent of people who walk through the door here could have been dealt with by a GP. The biggest question is: can we make GP practices more efficient, so it can cope with the volume?”