Revealed – When online and video GP appointments will be available at surgeries across Suffolk
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Online GP appointments will be available across all surgeries in Ipswich, East and West Suffolk by the end of the month – with video consultations set to be available everywhere within a year.
Health chiefs confirmed at a meeting of Ipswich Borough Council's scrutiny committee that both Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were rolling out a plan so that every GP surgery in those areas would offer online booking of appointments by the end of March.
Alongside that, online appointments for needs such as repeat prescriptions or medication reviews would also be available.
While some practices already offer those services, the CCGs are planning to have the service available for everyone, and will launch video appointments everywhere by the end of March 2021.
It comes as part of proposals to free up GPs where they are not necessarily needed.
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David Brown, deputy chief operating officer at Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: "We are moving more and more to online consultations.
"By the end of March all practices will offer online consultations and by the next March all practices will offer video appointments.
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"But nothing we are planning will take away access to a GP surgery in the future."
Mr Brown confirmed that the ability to phone or queue up for an appointment, and face-to-face consultations would still continue at every surgery, as some health issues would not be appropriate for an online or video consultation.
He also confirmed that for patients who do not use the internet, traditional methods of booking appointments would still be available.
The new services are part of a wider transformation of primary care into primary care networks - a set-up where GP surgeries will offer more services such as physiotherapists, mental health practitioners, paramedics and other professionals.
Those services will be for individual surgeries to decide what is needed, but means that patients who do not necessarily need to see a GP will see a professional best suited to their needs.
Mr Brown said: "If you see your GP for an appointment you didn't need to take, that is one someone who needs it can have. If you can do that often enough, it is the equivalent of an extra GP."
Data from the GP Patient Survey last year found an average of 75% of patients found getting an appointment was a good experience, although some surgeries had figures below 50%. It is hoped that the new measures will help address problems of GP shortages and availability of appointments, as well as helping patients access the appropriate healthcare professional for their ailment.