Patients and GPs in Staffordshire benefit from innovative programme

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Patients in north Staffordshire are benefitting from advancements in digital technology being used to connect patients with GPs at the click of a button.

The ‘Skype to Care Home’ programme aims to link care home residents and primary care clinicians by conducting video consultations through medium of Skype. There are currently 16 care homes and 12 GP practices in north Staffordshire taking part in the programme.

Dr Anil Kumar Sonnathi, a GP and CCG Technology Enabled Care Champion for the project said: “We started this programme in order to improve the quality of care provided for elderly patients by speedier access and at the same time address the issue of efficient use of primary care resources.

“Currently the video consultations are used for review of common acute presentations, chronic disease review, medication reviews and range of other problems.”

Since June 2018, there have been 2,000 video consultation which avoided over 1,500 face-to-face visits with GPs. As a result, GPs in north Staffordshire saved 10,232 minutes of travel time that can now be used to see other patients.

Dena Corden Lepett, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner at Brinsley Avenue Medical Practice said: “I look after two residential homes and we were able to put Skype into one of the homes. With support, we were able to reduce the visits from weekly to fortnightly by using Skype consultations.

“These were run with the care staff, who had a lot of support and training to build their confidence to be able to take part in the consultations. We also involved the patients, ensuring they were well supported by a member of staff. With some encouragement, we did manage to do quite a few consultations with patients with dementia or who were a bit anxious about having a go at something quite new.”

Dr Sonnathi added: “Although it doesn’t replace face-to-face consultations, this programme is a great way of using GPs time more effectively and efficiently.

“The logistics involved in setting up are not massive.  It involves tablet devises, good wifi access and staff training. There are no other start-up costs, annual subscription costs or licence costs.

“We hope that this programme will expand to other practices and care homes as well as other services such as community pharmacy and social care in the future.”

The Skype to Care Home programme was presented at the NHS Expo last month in order to promote it among other NHS organisations and it was very well received.