PATIENTS in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge will soon be able to have medical consultations with a hospital doctor over web-cam thanks to a new video consultation system being trialled.
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [MTW] is one of only nine in England that have been selected to trial the system after winning an NHS Improvement bid, which is aimed at providing better healthcare options for patients.
The video consultation will allow patients to speak to doctors or consultants at hospitals from the comfort of their own home using a similar system to popular web chatting software, Skype.
The Trust say the aim is to reduce the need for patients to travel to the hospital and take time off work or school and ‘applicable’ patients will be offered the opportunity over the coming weeks. It will not be available for use with GPs and surgeries.
A Trust spokesperson said: “It won’t be for every patient. Some will still need a face to face consultation, but for those that it is applicable they will be given a choice – they can still come to the surgery and have a face to face consultation or use this service.”
Currently, the Trust has only run a demonstration, attended by nurses, doctors, GPs, commissioners, IT and procurement, as well as representatives from the local prison service.
However, they say they are rolling out a pilot this summer, most likely in the Sexual Health, Specialist Medicine and Emergency Department services.
Under the pilot, patients not able or unwilling to travel to hospital can attend appointments virtually using a computer or mobile device.
Patients will, however, need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, a reliable internet connection, and access to a webcam and a microphone.
The Trust is also being asked to work with clinical commissioning groups and GPs to work out a plan to provide online consultations at each practice in the Trust area by April 2020.
They also want to be able to provide video consultations to all patients by April 2021.
The system being trialled at MTW is only one of a number of virtual appointment systems NHS England are looking into.
GP at Hand, a service that has been rolled out across London and Birmingham earlier this year, offers a GP consultation via a smartphone 24-hours a day, with the promise of a video consultation within two hours of booking.