Patients in Fleetwood will be among the first in the country to have access to revolutionary new video appointments with their GP.
The town’s four practices have launched the scheme as part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (PMCF), which has seen £150m of Government funding made available to improve patient access.
It is very exciting for Fleetwood to be at the forefront of technology
Supported by Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Mountview Surgery, Fleetwood Surgery, Broadway Medical Centre and Belle Vue Surgery have joined forces to deliver the services following a £550,000 investment from the PMCF.
Patients at these practices will very shortly be able to book video consultations with their GP as an alternative to a face-to-face appointment or telephone consultation via the online system already being used by patients to book appointments.
The innovations come at a time when Fleetwood practices are struggling to recruit GPs but Fleetwood practitioner, Dr Mark Spencer, said the two issues were unrelated.
Dr Spencer said of the scheme: “Many people, such as those who are housebound or those who struggle to access their local practice but prefer to be able to see their GP while talking to them, could see this new service as a real lifeline.
“It can also provide a convenient alternative to the potentially time-consuming visit to the doctors’ surgery for people with busy lives and those in full-time employment.
“Along with pilot sites in Sheffield and Stockport, we are the only place in the country currently offering this service so it is very exciting for Fleetwood to be at the forefront of technology that could revolutionise the way people see their doctors in the years to come.
“What is also good about this particular scheme is that it allows the patients to also see their medical records during the interview, because in other methods of doing it, using Skype of FaceTime, that won’t happen.”
But Dr Spencer said the scheme was not simply an easier way of getting to see a GP, given the fact that some practices in Fleetwood now have a shortage of doctors.
He said: “In some ways it may help but it is not directly related to that. It is an innovative way that can help people who may struggle to see a GP and will especially help older people in their own home or in care who may find access to the GP practice difficult.
“It’s a genuine way forward.”
The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund has seen a number of other improvements launched in the town.
Routine pre-bookable GP appointments have been made available at weekends along with a range of nurse-led services including phlebotomy, NHS Health Checks, cervical smears, diabetes clinics and CHD clinics.
A ‘Pharmacy First’ minor ailments scheme is also being trialled offering patients in Fleetwood access to health advice and treatment from their local pharmacy.
The scheme means the patient may not need to wait for an appointment to see their doctor and can choose to go to a pharmacy for advice and treatment.
Dr Tony Naughton, clinical chief officer for Fylde and Wyre CCG, said: “We are extremely proud of our four Fleetwood practices which are leading the way in some areas of modern healthcare.
“The work being done goes hand-in-hand with what the CCG has been doing across the Fylde Coast to revolutionise the way people are looked after.
“Indeed the recent award of Vanguard status for the area has provided us with funds to help us press on with new ways of caring for those most in need in our community and has again placed us at the very forefront of modern healthcare. And it is our hope that at least some of the revolutionary pilot schemes taking place in Fleetwood are successfully adopted across not just our area, but the country as a whole.”