These changes have been in the planning stage for a long time and we have thought very carefully about what has worked before, what has not worked so well, and how best to serve our 25,000 patients fairly and equally.
We have had feedback from many sources, we’ve spoken with our Member of the Scottish Parliment (MSP), and we’ve worked with other practices who have gone through a similar process and we have planned a system that we hope addresses everyone’s needs. We need to be able to work in a way that is sustainable for both us and patients, and provide a service that is equitable and dependable for the long term.
What will it look like?
The main difference is how we are accessed in the first place. We need to encourage patients to access help from the most appropriate person, at the most appropriate time, in the most appropriate place. This could be your local pharmacy through the Pharmacy First scheme, it could be your local optician for eye problems, your dentist, hospital secretary for appointment information, self referral to an NHS physio, or general health advice on NHS Inform. If these services are all accessed initially for those who should do so, then we can focus on the patients that only we can help with. Our website has information on how to access all of the above resources, as does NHS Inform.
The main way to access will be via our website, through eConsult. This is our new ‘front door’. It has self-help information, resources and an online form that is completed to let us know about your medical query.
eConsult will be available initially from 8am until 6.30pm Monday to Friday.
We are often asked about whether eConsult is fair. Don’t worry! If you have internet access you will be able to use eConsult, there are no log-ins required, and it is as easy as any other website you will be using. Our medical receptionists can help with any minor issues. At its peak we were receiving over 500 eConsults per week in March 2021 so we know it is popular and easy to use.
Some people won’t be able to use eConsult, we know this. If everyone who can use eConsult does use it, then we will have more availability to help those who cannot, people without the internet, those with eyesight impairment, parents of children under 6 months, patients with language difficulties and other groups. Our medical receptionist will confidentially take more information and your request will be processed in the same way.
We need your help to make this work. Please embrace this service so it is here, reliably for the long term. We know you depend on us, and we depend on you accessing us in a consistent way. If we all do our bit, we can keep making improvements, expand eConsult opening hours and make the most of other new developments that make things even better. Please give it a try.
Some medical issues will cause eConsult to advise you to speak to your GP or even 111 or 999. This is part of the safety system of eConsult, and although frustrating at the time, it is better than allowing the possibility of something serious being missed. If you have entered something by mistake you can press ‘go back’ on any page to check your answers. But, if you are still advised to call us, we are here to help, and we know this will happen so do not worry. This isn’t eConsult failing, it is the system working to keep everyone safe.
What happens to my request?
First off, your request arrives in a document to our reception team via email. These documents are filed, attached to your records and added to the appropriate workflow. This may be our admin team, pharmacy, First Contact Physio, GP or other Healthcare Professional. All have received training and certification in using eConsult, and we have lots of practice from when we first started using it in June 2020.
One of the differences compared to last year is how we allocate this work internally in the practice. The eConsults are allocated to a timeslot for a GP and we have rearranged our working day to fully prioritise these so we stick to the promise to get back to you by the end of the next working day, at the latest. In fact, we hope a large percentage will be dealt with on the same day. This also allows us to plan further ahead, to predict our workload and adjust our appointments more around this.
This in turn means we can start to look at some prebookable work. The pandemic does continue to make this a challenge due to last minute absence, but it gives us the option in the future.
We then assess the information. As it is already fully presented to us, we can process this more efficiently than a telephone call that requires both people to be free at the same time. We can also send resources, advice and you have a record of what was advised, to look back on if you need to. We have worked on training staff to allow consistent replies, and an expanded range of resources and advice that can be given.
The outcomes will be a range of things, advice, sick line printed, prescription sent, telephone appointment booked, phone call that day, face to face appointment booked, amongst other things.
We arrange face to face appointments for anyone who needs them. This has always been the case and will always continue to be. This means we arrange them for patients in whom seeing them face to face will change our thinking or line of investigation. Many conditions can be managed safely remotely and save time and risk for everyone involved.
Whatever the outcome, you will receive contact from someone in our team to let you know the next steps.
We hope you have found this helpful and look forward to improving the service, and your experience. Please help support this and make it a success, as it will benefit everyone if we work together.