[V]irtual out of hours GP appointments are now being offered by a state of the art video link between Millom Community Hospital and Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC) headquarters in Carlisle.
This development for patients in Millom is thanks to work done within the Millom Alliance including a partnership between Better Care Together and Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC). It means that some patients can avoid a 45 minute journey to attend a face to face appointment at Furness General Hospital.
The new video technology based in Millom Community Hospital means that on Saturdays between 9.00am and 1.30pm, suitable patients will be offered the option of a consultation with a CHOC GP via a video link. The service opening times are to coincide with the opening hours of the local pharmacies in Millom on Saturdays.
By using a high definition video screen and webcam the out of hours GP from Carlisle can assess the patient without physically being in the same room as them.
The GP can then decide the best course of action which may include a prescription being sent electronically to one of the local pharmacies.
Dr Neil Margerison, Medical Director for CHOC said: “Using the telehealth technology a CHOC clinician can assess various health conditions that are seen in primary care. Sore throats, eye conditions, skin conditions and joint problems are all examples of what has been dealt with so far. The service enables patients to be managed safely without them having to make the journey from Millom to Barrow and back.”
The aim of the service is to provide the public with fast, secure access to health care professionals, without having to travel in order to do so. Using video technology to deliver healthcare not only reduces the amount of travel time and effort required, it potentially means that CHOC are able to see an increased number of patients per day.
Video consultations have already been used successfully in Millom every weekend since it went live at the end of April.
Patient Mr Jopson had his appointment using the new technology based in Millom Community Hospital and said: “I think this is marvellous; I would be happy to do this style appointment again.”
The video consultations in Millom Community Hospital are operated by a qualified healthcare assistant who also supports the consultation by collecting relevant information for the clinician.
Suzanne Cameron, Health Assistant based at Millom Community Hospital said: “My job is to welcome patients on their arrival at the hospital and to make the video consultation as comfortable as possible for them. I am available to collect information for the GP including the patient’s blood pressure and temperature.”
Suzanne has access to a HD examination camera which is able to zoom in and provide high definition video or still images of a particular part of the body which can be seen by the GP.
Having a video consultation appointment is an option and patients can still travel further afield for an appointment if they wish. Additionally, patients may still need to travel for a face to face appointment if the clinician believes this is necessary following the telehealth consultation.
Dr Neil Margerison added: “Where patients are advised after a telehealth consultation that their condition requires management at one of the larger centres, they can travel to this appointment in the knowledge that their journey will be worthwhile.”
Susan Blakemore, Chief Executive for CHOC said: “CHOC is leading technology enabled care during the out of hours period. This innovation is to ensure safe care can be provided to patients in remote and rural locations. I am delighted that it is making a difference to patients within the Millom community and this will help CHOC to be part of a wider rollout of telehealth consultations for the population in Cumbria.”
To access this new service patients need to follow the existing out of hours triage process by calling 111 or by being passed to CHOC directly, for example via a paramedic. Under no circumstances will drop in appointments for video consultation be accepted. In the event of a walk in, the patient will be advised to ring 111.