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Patients give thumbs up to GP Skype pilot

GPs piloting Skype consultations at a central London GP practice saw high patient satisfaction but less-than-expected demand.

Almost all patients surveyed about their experience of the remote consultation service said they ‘would use it again’ (95%).

A further 94% said they were ‘satisfied or better’ than the consultation had met their medical needs and 78% were satisfied with how long they waited for the appointment.

Although patients were warned that ‘the security of Skype isn’t 100%’, 83% also said they were happy with the safeguarding of their privacy.

GPs at the practice were also positive, reporting that Skype was better than phone consultation for making a diagnosis. However they found it was less time efficient than phone consultations, taking up 10 instead of five minutes.

However plans to extend the number of GP sessions held via Skype each week from two to five were scrapped due to a lack of demand.

The leading CCG said a broad mix of patients had used the service including working people and parents of young children. Two-thirds of patients joined the remote consultation from home but more than a quarter – 28% – skyped from their workplace.

Dr Alice Fraser, the lead GP at the pilot practice Cavendish Health Centre in Westminster, said: ‘The flexibility that remote working offers means clinicians can make more efficient and productive use of time. I live outside of London so I found the use of Skype particularly helpful as I could carry out consultations with my patients from home without having to travel to London, which meant I was able to better balance my work and family commitments. 

‘Our patients with mobility or transport problems could get a more detailed consultation via Skype than a telephone conversation might allow, so this service proved especially useful for them.’

Kiran Chauhan, deputy managing director at NHS Central London CCG, said: ‘The remote consultation service offers convenience for both patients and GPs, and the feedback from both has been extremely positive… The pilot has given us some important learning points that we will consider when rolling this out further.’

He added that an added benefit from Skype consultations was ‘alleviating pressure’ on consultation room space.

He said: ‘Long term, the service can help to increase patients’ access to appointments as it enables practices to provide additional appointments without requiring more clinical space or the associated overheads. This can also alleviate pressure on limited consulting room space, which is a particular problem in central London where estate is at a premium, as GPs can see their patients from any private location.’