Doctors and nurses who are using Skype to treat older people in their homes have freed up 2,000 GP appointments, according to NHS England.
An integrated programme in Tameside – part of the NHS long term plan – set up a direct link between doctors, nurses and community teams such as care home staff and housing wardens, enabling clinicians to see and advise patients via Skype.
The Skype team receives around 8,000 calls a year.
As a result of this service, up to 3,000 visits to A+E were avoided over the past two years in Tameside – in addition to the 2,000 GP appointments. The ‘quicker care’ also saved £1.3m and hundreds of hours of NHS staff time, according to NHS England.
Medical director at NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, said the scheme is ‘not only good for the people we care for but a more efficient use of NHS resources.’
He said: ‘Putting every person’s individual care needs at the centre of joined-up services, supported by smart technology, is the heart of our long-term plan for the NHS.
‘What matters most to every patient and their family is that they get the right treatment, at the right time, so integrating services – across communities and between councils, carers and hospitals – is not only good for the people we care for but a more efficient use of NHS resources.’
Chief operating officer of Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust Trish Cavanagh said: ‘The strategic plans we have developed are aimed at improving access to care for people and looking to provide care in more innovative ways – including using technology to support this. In some circumstances this reduces the need for people to attend the hospital but they are still able to access expert advice in a timely manner.’
An integrated care pilot in South London reported seeing ‘increased NHS costs’ from GP screening of elderly people.
A recent survey found that only 0.1% of patients prefer video consultations over face-to-face appointments.