Posted: Thu 3rd Sep 2020

People in North Wales are avoiding unnecessary hospital trips thanks to a new app being used by GP’s

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Sep 3rd, 2020


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GPs across North Wales are accessing additional expert medical advice and avoiding unnecessary visits to hospital thanks to a new app.

As part of a national contract, GPs and primary care teams across Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board now have access to Consultant Connect, putting them in touch with consultants for advice and guidance in a range of specialties.

Over the first four weeks of the service being in place, GPs have advised that 47 per cent of patients (in cases where they had used the app for further guidance) avoided a follow-up appointment in hospital.

Through direct access to advice from consultants, GPs can ensure that patients get the right care first time.

This often means that patients can avoid unnecessary trips to hospital, freeing up clinic time for hospital consultants to spend time seeing patients they really need to see.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board introduced the service on 29 May 2020 to 426 GPs in 103 practices covering over 700,000 patients.

Over the following four weeks, GPs used the app to get specialist advice for 58 patients from hospital consultants.

After accessing advice, 27 of those patients avoided a further appointment at one of North Wales’ three district general hospitals.

From launch, GPs had access to 19 NHS specialities from the National Consultant Network, as well as a range of clinicians working in North Wales.

Departments offering advice include Cardiology at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Wrexham Maelor Hospital’s Medicines Information department, and Respiratory Medicine at Ysbyty Gwynedd.

Dr Nicky Davies (pictured above) a GP and Assistant Medical Director of Primary Care, said: “Helping improve the communication between our colleagues in primary and secondary care will make a real difference to our patients.

“Over time there is a potential to see this reducing waiting times, and free up clinical time for people who really need to see a doctor.

“Just knowing there’s someone on the end of the phone who you can bounce ideas and advice on, it’s really helpful.”

Dr Bisola Ekwueme, a GP and North West Flintshire Cluster Lead, said: “From our point of view, it’s fantastic that we can access a consultant and get a response back.

“Most of the feedback I’ve received has seen a response in around 30 seconds, so can even be done while a patient is present in the surgery.

“The service saves the time and effort of sending a referral, especially for an investigative referral which might not be necessary. It’s very useful to have someone you can ask a question to or get reassurance from so the patient doesn’t need to wait.

Dr Ushan Andrady, Consultant Physician in Sexual Health, recently subscribed Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Sexual Health and HIV service to Consultant Connect.

He said: “I think there’s a lot of mutual benefits in helping colleagues in primary care access specialist advice in a quick, convenient way.

“Thinking about sexual health in particular, it’s a sensitive subject where patients may feel nervous or embarrassed about being referred to a sexual health clinic. If we can help GPs get quick access to the advice and guidance needed, it’ll help make sure a lot of people get the clinical intervention they need.

“It could take pressure away from our clinical time, and reduce the need for people to call through to the hospital’s switchboard.

“For patients with HIV or who have compromised immune systems as well, it means we may be able to reduce the need for coming in to hospital for appointments, potentially avoiding any additional risk of picking up an infection.”

The Betsi Cadwaladr clinician accesses the service either by dialling a unique phone number or using the Consultant Connect App. After choosing a specialty from a menu they are connected with a specialist in an average of 28 seconds.

Clinicians can then use the photo feature on the app to take and share clinical photos through the platform’s secure messaging system.

Welsh Government Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “I am very pleased we are able to start rolling out the Consultant Connect app in NHS Wales.

“This will help to support primary care to determine the right treatment for their patients.

“Right now, it will save crucial time for health care professionals and reduce the amount of hospital visits needed by patients, at a time when our NHS is facing extra pressure.

“In the long-term the use of this technology is an important part of our plan for the future of health and social care, A Healthier Wales.”

More information about the Welsh Government announcement is available from: https://gov.wales/new-app-provide-specialist-advice-gps-seconds

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