GPS ARE highlighting ways for Keighley people to consult them using mobile phones and computers.

The family doctors have for several months been encouraging patients to move 'go digital' rather than struggling to find book face-to-face appointments.

The coronavirus outbreak – which is limiting access to local medical centres for patients – has highlighted the usefulness of services such as eConsult and Push Doctor.

Patients in their own home can chat on screen with medical staff or answer questions on their device designed to diagnose their ailment, with a response from a real doctor within 24 hours.

The 'digital health revolution' is being spearheaded by AWC Modality (Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven), the super practice that runs the Holycroft, Farfield and Kilmeny GP practices in Keighley; the Oakworth, Haworth, Silsden and Cross Hills medical practices, and the Fisher Medical Centre in Skipton.

Bill Graham, lead in community and innovation at Modality, said: "Digital Health offers new options to access health care advice. It does not replace face-to-face appointments but is a way to increase the number of options available to our patients.

"These new services allow patients to access health advice without having to come into the surgery. With ever-increasing demand on our stretched services, digital health offers a convenient way of accessing the health care you need and frees up face-to-face appointments and phone lines.”

Modality staff showcased Digital Health at events in Keighley and Bradford before the coronavirus lockdown, and Mr Graham said the feedback from patients was very positive.

He said: "Push Doctor is a way to access a face-to-face GP appointment via your mobile phone, laptop or tablet. Appointments can be at a time to suit the patient.

"It’s a great way to get advice from wherever you might be – at work or unable to get to the surgery. Its free for Modality patients in AWC and most patients at other practices.

"Push Doctor is even available at A&E from Airedale – which frees up valuable clinicians' time and reduces waiting times."

People wishing to access Push Doctor need to download an app to their phone, tablet or laptop. Online tutorials are available.

Modality surgeries also offer E Consult , a 24/7 method to access healthcare advice on a phone, tablet or laptop.

Mr Graham said: "You can access this via a link on your surgery website. You don’t need a username or password – just a few personal details to access your surgery's portal.

"You then run through a series of questions and will be able to write queries or ask for help. You will get a reply at the latest by the end of the next working day."

Dr Barnaby Jones, GP Partner at Fisher Medical Centre, said that since its launch last May eConsult had been a massive success providing high levels of patient and staff satisfaction.

He added: "This is reflected in the high numbers of eConsults we receive on a daily basis. AWC Modality practices are leading the way on how practices can adopt and implement eConsultations. 

"We hope that the use of digital technology such as eConsult and Push Doctor can complement traditional GP consultations to ensure patients can access high-quality care from the right clinician at the right time. 

"Digital technology also allows patients to seek self-help advice from NHS resources, signposting to appropriate local services in addition to being able to help manage long term conditions.” 

Karen Foulger, chairman of the Kilmeny Patient Participation Group, said digital health platforms offered more flexible options to patients, freeing up face-to-face appointments to those that needed them.

Sam Brammall, a patient with Modality, said: “The question prompts on the eConsult platform will really help people better explain how they feel while making sure they cover everything that is going on and to be able to calmly explain within the comfort of their own home."  

Dr Dan Bunstone, Chief Medical Officer at Push Doctor, said: "We are a proud partner of Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

"At the end of 2019, we launched our A&E partnership with Airedale Hospital to help reduce waiting times where possible for patients with symptoms suitable for primary care consultations. 

"We are the longest-running UK provider of online GP video consultations and work exclusively with the NHS. We hope that our services are supporting the local facilities to cope with the increasing demand for online consultations and providing safe, quick and convenient access to care for patients in the area.”