An online service which enables more patients to access the advice and treatment they need without having to visit their doctor is set to be extended by the West Cheshire Way vanguard.

eConsult offers patients whose symptoms are not medically urgent a wide range of self-help information including symptom checkers and useful videos. It also signposts other local health services such as pharmacies and NHS 111.

In many cases the eConsult service can be used as an alternative to a traditional GP appointment or telephone consultation.

Following a successful pilot, it is now set to be extended to more GP practices.

City Walls Medical Centre GP Dr Dan Jones, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s clinical lead for ICT, recognises that embracing innovative new technology is key to enhancing general practice. “eConsult is designed to provide better access for patients at a time convenient to them. By providing online support 24 hours a day people can get help with managing their health and wellbeing. The service enables patients to research their symptoms through self-help information, signposts a range of useful local resources and also lets people ask their GP surgery about their condition.”

Registered patients simply visit their GP practice website and click on one of three main options:

‘I want help for my condition’,

‘I want general advice’ or

‘I want administrative help’.

Patients who are unsure if they need a GP appointment can also complete an online questionnaire.

The GP practice will then get in touch with them by the end of the next working day to advise of the next step.

This might be a telephone consultation, a face-to-face appointment or a prescription for the patient to collect.

Where an appointment is required, GPs have the benefit of more information courtesy of the patient’s responses in the symptom-specific online questionnaire. This enables consultations to be more informed, focused and productive.