Devon is recognised nationally for being the highest in the South West for introducing alternatives to the traditional face-to-face appointment options with a GP.
The NHS Long Term Plan compares regions across the country and demonstrates how successfully new technology has been introduced by GP practices.
The national document, published in early January, also shows that Devon is ranked second highest in the country for introducing new methods for GP appointments. These alternatives include the opportunities for telephone and video or online appointments.
Many GP practices across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are now offering their patients the choice of quick telephone or online consultations, saving time waiting and travelling.
Alternative methods of consulting with a GP other than traditional face to face ones, make up more than 18 per cent of the total number of GP appointments that have taken place across Devon.
The data shows that the biggest single alternative to face-to-face consultations are telephone appointments. Patients across Devon will already be used to being offered appointments by telephone by many practices in the county.
The next most popular option for people in Devon to access help and advice from a GP is through ever increasing online services.
The online consultation service, eConsult, was introduced in Devon GP practices last year and growth in the use of the technology has been more than 500% in just nine months.
More than 600,000 patients in Devon are now able to benefit from 24-hour online access to their GP practice.
The new service is on many of Devon practices’ websites, aiming to help people get the right treatment they need at a time that is convenient to them.
Dr John McCormick, GP and chief clinical information officer for Devon’s CCGs, said: “Devon is leading the way in embracing new technology in healthcare.
“For many patients, the traditional face-to-face appointments with a GP are vital and the most effective way to get advice and treatment. But for many patients in Devon, we know that accessing services through telephone or online options are much more convenient.
“It’s great to see such a variety of consultation types are available to Devon patients to better meet the needs of our varied population.”
More than 50 per cent of Devon GP practices now offer online consultations and new practices are signing up to introduce this tool very month.
In December alone, more than 2,200 online consultations took place across the county. These would otherwise have been face-to-face consultations, so GPs’ time was freed up to see more patients with more urgent needs.
As GP practices consider the options and tools they want to introduce in the future, they are working with patient groups and local populations to rightly determine what best fits for their practice and their patients.
The NHS Long Term Plan, published nationally in January 2019, sets out a national goal for every patient in England to be able to choose telephone or online consultations in the next five years.