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GPs should have online consultation software in place ‘by end of week’

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GPs should be supported by their CCG to have online consultation systems in place by the end of this week, NHS England has said.

GP surgeries have been advised to move to a total triage and undertake remote care where possible during the Covid-19 outbreak.

NHSX, NHS England and NHS Improvement have fast-tracked a tender for the procurement of online consultation facilities to ensure CCGs can quickly get access to a system where no contract is in place.

Eleven companies have now been appointed to provide these services. The successful companies were selected from 33 trusted NHS suppliers and will supply online consultation services to selected CCGs across the country.

The selected companies are:

  • LIVI
  • Doctorlink
  • eConsult
  • EMIS
  • Engage Consult
  • PreGP
  • Q Doctor
  • Lincus
  • Ask NHS
  • FootFall
  • Visiba Care

A letter from NHS England to general practice on the weekend (27 March) stated: ‘There is support available for GP practices to establish a remote “total triage” model using online consultations. A blueprint guide has been developed – this is contained in a separate accompanying document (Remote Total Triage Blueprint).

‘There has also been a rapid procurement exercise via the dynamic purchasing system (DPS) framework so that any commissioners who do not have a contract for an online consultation system that enables total triage can immediately call one off. These systems will be centrally funded.

‘Please contact your regional NHS England and NHS Improvement team to take this forward, ensuring you have a solution by 3 April 2020 at the latest.’

It comes as NHS X has said that GPs can use Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime where video consultation tools are not already in place during the coronavirus outbreak.

Recent guidance from NHS X approved the use of commercial communication apps not usually recommended for NHS use, ‘where the benefit outweighs the risk.’

NHS X stated in the guidance: ‘The health and social care system is going to face significant pressures due to the Covid-19 outbreak. In the current circumstances, it could be more harmful not to share health and care information than to share it’.

They added: ‘We encourage the use of videoconferencing to carry out consultations with patients and service users. This could help to reduce the spread of Covid-19. It is fine to use video conferencing tools such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime as well as commercial products designed specifically for this purpose’.