GPs To Trial Skype And Email Appointments
Experimental plans to make family doctors more accessible using Skype appointments and email consultations are due to be announced within the next few weeks.
At least 40,000 patients will be covered by pilot schemes in England designed to improve access to GPs through extending opening hours, weekend opening and better use of technology.
GPs in West Yorkshire have been using video conferencing to assess patients for the past eight years through a pioneering scheme at Airedale General Hospital.
First used with patients in prisons, more recent use with elderly people in care homes has shown it can cut the number of A&E appointments by 69% and hospital admissions by 45%.
Dr Colin Renwick, a GP from Settle in North Yorkshire, has been involved with the project since 2006 and says video conferencing could easily be extended to a patient's home.
"There's no reason why you couldn't do (that)," he said.
"A lot of what you base a diagnosis on is actually what the patient is telling you on the history, and if you're listening to the patient the actual physical hands-on examination often doesn't add a lot to what they've told you."
The pilot scheme areas are due to announced later this month, with a commitment to rapid implementation and to delivering what the government calls "tangible patient benefits".
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