How Lancashire’s doctors’ surgeries are going digital – and what it means for patients

As the NHS roles out a programme designed to bring more digital technology to GP surgeries, almost two thirds of practices across Lancashire and South Cumbria are now offering time saving online consultations

This is an edited version of an article first published by the Lancashire Post

Nearly a million patients can now access the virtual visits via a new app called ‘My GP’ or other online communication tools. More than 156,000 downloaded the app across the region and work is underway to introduce it into more Lancashire practices, the aim being to cover 90% of the population.

Nursing manager Jeanette Barnard at St Mary’s Health Centre in Penwortham is excited by the prospect of online appointments whilst also recognising their limitations.

“It depends on what the patient is presenting with and any conditions they’ve got,” she explains.

“If you were doing a Facetime consultation, you obviously couldn’t take somebody’s temperature or measure their blood sugar.”

Practice nurse Steve Riley, who previously lived 300 miles away from the practice, was interviewed for his job at the surgery via a webcam. His enthusiasm for digital interaction has not waned: “For the right type of patient, it’s going to be phenomenal. We don’t have to get everybody in and do a pulse, temperature and blood pressure check.

“Obviously, there are things we should be doing to monitor patients and look for deterioration. But a lot of the time, patients can describe what the problem is – and if they are presenting via video, we can get that information from them.”

Stephanie Zakrewski, practice nurse at the Whalley Medical Centre in the Ribble Valley, says a shift to digital could actually expand the services available to patients.

“It’s complementary and additional to what we already have – we are not reducing the contact. I’ve got patients who work full-time Monday to Friday who can’t come for their reviews for conditions like asthma.

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“NHS bosses in the region suggest that rethinking the traditional appointment scenario across both the GP and hospital settings could prove more convenient for patients – and more efficient for a health service under strain.”

The technology deployed to treat patients within the NHS is advancing every day – but still lags behind technological development in other areas.

“It has always amazed me that you can shop online and book flights, hotels and restaurants – but health seems to have been left behind,” says Barnard. Thankfully this seems to be changing.

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