NHS project that helps patients see their GP from the safety of their home in line for award treble

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(Last Updated On: November 18, 2020)

A Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) project is in the running for three of England’s most prestigious healthcare awards.

The Devon Digital Accelerator (DDA), which works with GP practices to increase the uptake of online consultations among patients, was today (Wednesday) named as a finalist for three HSJ Awards.

The DDA saw off competition from thousands of entries to be shortlisted in the Connecting Services and Information, Primary Care Innovation and Staff Engagement categories.

The HSJ (Health Service Journal) Awards, which have been described as the ‘Oscars of the health sector’, recognising outstanding contributions to healthcare services. Finalists are selected on their “ambition, visionary spirit and the demonstrable positive impact that they have had on patient and staff experiences within the health and social care sector”.

The DDA has helped Devon record the highest usage figures in the country and
ensured 99% of the county’s surgeries now offer online consultations. It also helped patients stay safe during the COVID-19 lockdown, enabling them to get GP advice without leaving the house.

Local patients are also being reassured they will still get a face-to-face appointment if their GP thinks they need one.

DDA representatives and all finalists will appear, remotely, in front of a judging panel in January. The winners will then be announced at a ‘virtual’ ceremony in March.

Dr John McCormick, Chief Clinical Information Officer for NHS Devon CCG, said: “Being shortlisted for one HSJ Award would’ve been an honour. To appear in three categories is an outstanding achievement and a tribute to everyone involved in the project.

“Thanks to the DDA, Devon has become a standard-bearer for online consultation usage and recorded some of the highest usage figures in the country.

“The project has provided vital support for practice staff and clear guidance to
patients, ensuring thousands can access this essential service.“While the project started in 2019, it came into its own during the COVID-19 outbreak. The DDA’s work was invaluable in protecting the public and members of our health service by allowing patients to consult their GP from the safety of their own home.”

The DDA, which launched in April 2019, supports practices to introduce online
consultation systems that suit the needs of patients and staff. The project centres on an online platform called ‘eConsult’, which enables patients to communicate their symptoms in an online form.

As well as helping to relieve pressure on GP services, online consultations are a quick, easy and convenient way for patients to access their GP practice. They can complete the form wherever they are, 24-hours a day, and avoid unnecessary trips to the surgery.

Dr McCormick added: “In most cases when a patient contacts their local practice, doctors will talk to them by phone, video or online in the first instance.

“This may be different from what people are used to, but often enables a faster response and is vitally important as a measure to help keep patients and practice staff safe.

“If your doctor needs to see you in person, they will do – face-to-face appointments are still happening across Devon where they are needed.”

Since March, Devon has processed more eConsult forms than any other county, with over 30,000 submitted each month. Plymouth’s Mayflower Medical Group processes up to 400 eConsults a day – the most of any GP practice in the UK.

Following its success, NHS England tasked the DDA with writing a blueprint for the rapid implementation of online consultations during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. This was then circulated to GP practices throughout England.

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