An update from the GP partners (October 2020)
Since March we have all 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, we started a trial of a new appointment triage system named eConsult. However, having reviewed feedback from patients and our own experience, it was clear that we 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 practice staff, members of the Patient Participation Group (PPG) and has been specifically developed for our Surgery. We hope you will find the new version much easier to use and look forward to receiving your feedback and comments.
As you may perhaps recall from our previous letter in July, we felt we 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 our development team to enhance the way V-Consult works. Feedback from you about what works well and what will need further improvement will help us to ensure that V-Consult works well and is effective for all of us.
We are very sorry if at times you have been frustrated by our first attempts at implementing this online service and we thank you for your patience. 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.
With our very best wishes
The Lordswood Group of GP Partners
v-CONSULT enables GP surgeries to offer online consultations to their patients. Designed to improve practice efficiencies and signpost patients to the right place. This allows patients to submit their symptoms or requests to their own GP electronically and offers NHS self-help information, signposting to services, and a symptom checker.
- v-Consult is our new system for contacting the surgery
- We expect it to be more convenient than telephoning us
- No system is perfect but we believe it will offer you a better, safer service
- Prioritising safe face to face appointments is important for all.
- Continuity of care is our main focus at Lordswood Medical Group.