GP in Harrogate District launches video-call appointments for patients

Harrogate residents have suggested they would be open to trying video-call appointments with their GP as the NHS looks at ways to reduce pressure on its services.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 11:43 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:23 am
Dr Richard Tatham is the only doctor at the practice who is currently offering the service. Picture: Springbank Health

Part of the push to save money within the NHS is based on telemedicines - using telecommunications to provide clinical care from a distance.

But a handful of people in the town have said they wouldn’t mind trying the less-than-conventional way of seeing the doctor.

Harrogate resident, Julia Roper said: “Sometimes you don’t need a face-to-face appointment. For me, working full time, the ability to just have a phone conversation works well because I could even do it from work if I wanted.”

Even those who wouldn’t have the technology to take advantage of the video appointments were not opposed to the idea.

Another resident, Hilary Dixon said: “I don’t have a computer so it wouldn’t be any good for me but it’s a very good idea - especially if you’re elderly or in a rural area.”

Being rural is the very reason that Springbank Health in Green Hammerton has started offering the service and is the first GP in the Harrogate district to do so.

Dr Richard Tatham is currently the only doctor at the practice who is offering video appointments. He said: “We have an ageing population and we are a very rural practice. We do home visits and that can be anything up to a 20 mile round trip. Sometimes speaking to someone is enough, you don’t always need to examine them.

"If someone was acutely unwell we would always go out for a home visit but if it’s a chat to see how someone is, sometimes a conversation where you can see a friendly face on the computer screen, is all it really needs.”

Dr Tatham explained that the video appointments have saved time, with him able to undertake six video calls in the time it would take to cover one 20 mile round home visit.

The practice has also set up an Instagram page to target younger people who might find it easier to make an appointment by direct message.

But the innovative ideas have not been without consideration for the downfalls of technology such as privacy and user accessibility.

Dr Tatham said: “We have to make people aware that Skype and FaceTime are third party run software so we have to read a disclaimer to the patient so they understand. So far there has been no problems. I definitely hope that it wont be forced on people. We are a rural practice with traditional values.

“I know the NHS is under pressure but I don’t think it’s going to be a cure. We are trying it out and we think it’s got a lot of mileage in it.”