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Bexley hospital trials innovative NHS app which could soon be ‘the future of the UK’

PUBLISHED: 15:44 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:25 16 April 2018

The new Urgent Care Centre. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital

The new Urgent Care Centre. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital

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A digital innovation which could change the face of patient appointments and increase efficiency of NHS time and resources is currently being trialled in Bexley, in what is being seen as an historic development.

The care centre includes a camera which monitors a patient simply by reading the patient’s face through a screen. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital The care centre includes a camera which monitors a patient simply by reading the patient’s face through a screen. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital

A digital innovation which could change the face of patient appointments and increase efficiency of NHS time and resources is currently being trialled in Bexley.

The pilot at Queen Mary’s Urgent Care centre in Frognal avenue, Sidcup, is one of just two trial locations to be chosen by NHS Digital.

The centre has, since January, seen an online transformation by eConsult, so that all patients who come into the care centre are triaged digitally.

Patients can book in on iPads which prioritse appointments based on the needs of the patient. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital Patients can book in on iPads which prioritse appointments based on the needs of the patient. Picture: Queen Mary's Hospital

Patients can now walk through the door and use online facilities to monitor what they should do next and determine the level of urgency of their concern, with major problems being immediately flagged up to staff who will deal with the patient as a top priority.

A revolutionary new part of this system includes a camera which can monitor a patient simply by reading their face through a screen - this method can replace traditional blood pressure tests and reveal other things like heart rate and respiration.

Part of the initiative also includes an app available on phones, NHS Bexley, which allows patients to choose what kind of help they would like and informs the patient whether or not they need to see a consultant.

It allows for 24/7 access of self-care advice, and patients can book appointments, order repeat prescriptions, access their medical records and even consult online with their own GP.

The 240,000 patients in Bexley are the first in the country to have free access to NHS Online and its integration into urgent care.

Mark Harmon, doctor and strategic director of eConsult, said: “NHS time and resources are often used on patients who don’t need care urgently - in the past, appointments have always been based on a first-come, first-served basis, when really it should be about prioritising based on the needs of the patient.”

Everything provided, including extensive information on different medical queries, has been written by doctors, who see the information and can decide, based on answers given, where to best direct the patient.

Responses on the app will always be received in no less than 24 hours and in emergency situations, the issue will be flagged to emergency services or care centres.

Reviews have so far been extremely positive, with 96pc of patients choosing to use the iPad-style consultation when arriving at the centre, although traditional options will always remain available.

Dr Harmon said: “It was found that 68pc of the patients who turn up daily didn’t actually need to be there, and the NHS pay £68 for every patient who walks through the doors.

“This innovation will not only help to save resources so that focus can be given to the patients who really require it, it also means that patients can address their queries a lot quicker.”

Dr Harmon stated that the aim of this is not to take away the human element of booking appointments and consultations.

He added: “We are still practicing doctors and face-to-face interaction is still an extremely important part of that.

“We spent months planning for this - working with Bexley’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and we wanted the feedback and advice of those of all ages who may be opposed to the idea.

“Throughout that time, we listened to them and they came for the launch of the digital care centre - we want to reiterate the fact that it isn’t about taking staff away from patients, it’s about giving staff more time to be with patients and improving the quality.”

Staff are also on hand to help patients with the apps should they wish to try them, and are specially trained in helping anyone who may need guidance.

Dr Harmon believes that, in time, this digitalised medical facility could be the future of the NHS across the UK, putting Bexley on the map as the first providers of the innovation.

To download the app, which is available free of charge to all Bexley residents, visit the app store and search NHS Online Bexley.

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