PATIENTS of Keighley GPs are being urged to go digital to free up phone lines for vulnerable and less tech-savvy patients.

Wherever possible health bosses want people to make appointments, seek advice and see their GP using mobiles, tablets and laptops rather than in person.

One of Keighley’s top medics, Dr Brendan Kennedy, this week described high-tech innovations such as eConsult as “the future of General Practice”.

The revolution – described as ‘patients first/digital first’ – is being spearheaded by GP surgeries in Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven that are part of the Modality Partnership.

Dr Kennedy, AWC Modality’s new executive partner, said the partnership had already begun modernising the way it served local patients before the coronavirus pandemic began.

But the lockdown – when surgeries had to limit the number of people who visited in person – speeded up the rollout of the services.

Dr Kennedy said feedback from patients and staff had been “incredibly positive”, adding: “There is no doubt that this is the future of General Practice.

“The COVID-19 pandemic meant we had to quickly alter the way we looked after our patients to keep them safe. We are delighted to be offering new ways of consulting with our patients including video consultations and eConsult.

“These are incredibly safe and convenient ways for our patients to access appropriate healthcare and advice. We have ensured safeguards are built into our systems for vulnerable patients and are working with our local communities to assist patients who struggle to get online.”

Bill Graham, Modality Partnership’s Community Innovation and Development Lead, said local medical staff wanted to use the new ways to access healthcare advice and make their services more compatible with modern life and technology.

“Our commitment to roll out online and digital services has happened a lot faster than we anticipated but the reaction and feedback from patients has been very encouraging. We are fully aware some patients may not be tech savvy or experience digital poverty, but if the patients who can use our digital access point use eConsult then it will be much easier for vulnerable or not so tech savvy patients to get in touch by phone."

AWC Modality looks after 90,000 patients. Medical practices include Kilmeny, Farfield and Holycroft in Keighley; Oakworth, Haworth Silsden/Steeton and Cross Hills; and Fisher Medical Centre in Skipton.