A super practice that counts the chief inspector of general practice among its partners has moved to having 80% of their patient contact via telephone or online.
The chief executive of Modality – where Professor Steve Field is a partner in Birmingham – told delegates at a King’s Fund conference on today that it has developed its digital offering, including producing a smartphone app.
The practice is one of NHS England’s ‘new models of care’ that provides primary and secondary care to 100,000 patients, and was awarded investment from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.
Dr Naresh Rati, who is also a GP in Birmingham, said they started looking at changing access two and a half years ago. He said: ‘We are all ruled by our smartphones but yet fewer than 1% of our patients were interacting with us digitally. We thought this could not be right.
‘Now, two and a half years on, about 20% of our patients access Modality services digitally. And if you include telephone, that increases to 80%. So over 80% of our interactions with our patients are out of a consulting room, out of a GP surgery.’
But Dr Rati was keen to stress that this was not about reducing access to patients, who can still book face-to-face appointments with GPs, but expanding it.
He said: ‘For us this isn’t about restricting choice of access to patients. It is about giving patients more choice. So they can book in the traditional way and see a GP or other clinician, or they can talk to us by phone, Skype and through the website.’
But he said Modality has learned that patients don’t want to access appointments on Sundays – something health secretary Jeremy Hunt had admitted himself.
He said: ‘Modality has been open seven days a week for the last 2.5 years now and patients want access but they don’t want it at weekends. Sunday afternoons particularly they don’t want it, Saturday mornings they don’t want it, but we are open seven days a week.
‘But what they do want is convenient access at times that are right for them – that is instant access.’
Speaking also about the new care models, which will have over 30,000 patients each and operate to new voluntary contracts, Dr Rati said super practices had a responsibility to ‘step up’ and help solve problems faced in the NHS,.
For Modality, that had included sending GPs to work in A&E for free.
He said: ‘As a lot of acute trusts did, it imploded one weekend over Christmas and I got a call Friday afternoon and we put our GPs in A&E that weekend, for free. It is that sort of stuff that you’ve just got to kind of say that is your responsibility as a large GP organisation.’