Patients in the Church Village area will soon be able to consult their GP via computer or smartphone.

Parc Canol Group Practice, responsible for 17,500 patients, is adopting a 24-hour E-consultation system.

The web-based consultations are conducted via the practice website and offer medical advice, prescriptions or sick notes, or a referral to a face-to-face appointment when necessary.

A similar scheme which has run at Pontcae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil for the last two years is now saving an average of 30 surgery appointments a week.

Patient satisfaction with the service is also high at 98%. Some 80% of patients reported that they did not need to contact the surgery or other health service for the same problem.

Parc Canol Group Practice GP Dr Lisa Thomas, pictured, said: “The aim is to deliver a service to all our patients while freeing up face-to-face appointments for the most complex cases who need to be seen and examined. Patients who, for example, may need a sick note or advice don’t need to take time out to come into the surgery.”

Patients can access the system from the practice website www.parccanolgrouppractice.co.uk at any time of the day or night.

One section details how to explain their symptoms for an E-consultation, a section gives general advice or information on self-care, and another on how to contact administrative help. If they need help with a medical problem, the patient answers some questions on-line.

Patients are told they will receive a response by the end of the next working day. They can use this service if they are registered at the practice, and if the problem isn’t an immediate emergency.

Experienced staff co-ordinate the requests for an E-consultation for the doctors, who then take the action necessary, such as a prescription, referral for an appointment or a sick note.

Pontcae practice manager Kevin Rogers said: “We were the first in Wales to bring in E-consult. For us it has worked brilliantly and is probably one of the best innovations we have had so far.”

All the information collected in an E-consultation is available in the patient’s records later. Safeguards are built in to the system so that if the symptoms a patient describes are concerning they can be directed towards A&E or to make an acute appointment with the practice.

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