Since March General Practices have faced, on a seemingly daily basis new and difficult challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This was particularly marked in General Practice by the instruction from NHS England to switch overnight to a system of total triage from a traditional model of largely face to face consultations, that had not really changed for well over half a century.
To try and make this work more effectively, back in July, Lordswood started a trial of a new appointment triage system named eConsult. However, having reviewed feedback from patients and their own experience, it was clear that They needed to modify and improve this system to overcome the problems experienced while maintaining the benefits that online triage can offer.
This latest system, which is called v-Consult, has been extensively tested by Lordswood practice staff, members of the Patient Participation Group (PPG) and has been specifically developed for their Surgery. We hope Lordswood staff and patient will find the new version much easier to use and look forward to receiving your feedback and comments.
Lordswood felt they needed to introduce a modern online appointment triage system for three reasons:
- Firstly, building on what NHS England continue to instruct, they have now mandated that all GP practices implement an on-line consultation system by April next 2021.
- Secondly, had we continued to use our previous system of working as we came out of lockdown, we were in danger of being overwhelmed by appointment requests, many of which could be effectively handled by a quick call or message, or direct referral to a more appropriate healthcare professional.
- Thirdly, the traditional method of booking, what is sadly a limited number of appointments can on occasion be a bit of a lottery and a triage system is necessary to try and make sure that more serious problems can be dealt with quickly and not lost in the system.
The new triage approach will hopefully achieve this and frees up appointments with your doctor for more urgent and complex problems, while also giving very useful information to our clinicians prior to the consultation. Despite the problems with our initial system, many patients have found that, since we implemented the change, response times and appointment availability have improved significantly.
Telephone contact with the surgery will always be available, but we would strongly encourage you to try the new online tool. You should find it is quick to use, and it avoids long waits in the telephone queue. Also, by avoiding using the phone you will make it easier for patients who cannot use online access and those who have a very urgent problem, for which the online system is not designed, to get through more quickly and easily.
Over the coming months, we shall be working with Lordswood team to enhance the way v-Consult works. Feedback from patients about what works well and what will need further improvement will help us to ensure that v-Consult (Online Consultation) works well and is effective for all.
We are confident though, that what we have learnt over the past few months will mean that you will find that this new system is a great improvement, giving a safer and more responsive service.