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Digital Exemplars driving digital innovation in Primary Care across Lancashire and South Cumbria

10th October 2019

The Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria Digital Exemplar Programme launched in June 2018 with the goal to develop a programme of digital support for local practices. To date, the programme has given 43 GP practices across Lancashire and South Cumbria the opportunity to become digital exemplars. The programme has been funded by the partnership of health and care organisations across Lancashire and South Cumbria as part of a shared digital health strategy, Our Digital Future.

As a result a number of digital solutions have been rolled out to practices, including the myGP app which allows patients to access appointments and prescriptions online. There are currently nearly 168,000 patients using myGP and we are now planning to roll the app out to further practices in Chorley and South Ribble, Greater Preston, East Lancashire and West Lancashire to cover 90% of the population.

Other key successes of the Digital Exemplar programme

  • 167 exemplar practice staff have participated in social media training. This has developed the digital confidence of staff members, allowing them to interact with their patients in new and exciting ways. For example using Facebook, a post about the importance of cervical smear tests by Bay Medical Group has reached more than 1.1 million people. This post resulted in 153 extra smear appointments being booked at Bay Medical, highlighting how using social media can engage high levels of the population.
  • 197 of the exemplar practice staff have attended 3 digital workshops since June 2018. These workshops provided exemplars with information on all the digital opportunities available in the area, also giving exemplars the platform to shape the regions Digital First Programme.
  • 1,005,414 patients had been enabled to use online consultation (where patients are able to contact their practice online to ask about a new or ongoing problem and get advice, or an appointment if needed) by September 2019 and 80.67% of all practices across Lancashire and South Cumbria are offering online consultations. In the last 12 months there have been 167,664 myGP downloads, and 20,236 appointments were booked through the app in September.
  • In September 2019, 20,236 appointments booked were offered alternative services rather than a GP appointment, and 7,269 appointments were cancelled as patients chose these alternative services.

Cath's story - using social media to empower patients

Digital Exemplar case study - Ash Tree House Surgery

Ash Tree House Surgery, Kirkham has embraced the digital revolution and has doubled the number of appointments they are required to offer online to patients. The practice is contracted to offer 19 appointments a day - 580 a month – but they have already more than tripled the number available to their patients through utilising digital solutions.

Melanie Nuttall, Practice Co-ordinator, has led the digital transformation at the surgery.  She admitted both staff and patients are still learning how to work in the new digital way but the benefits were already significant for all.

A range of different appointments are now available, including routine appointments up to 28 days beforehand and on the day appointments to patients digitally, via either the myGP or Patient Access App . 

Melanie Nuttall, Ash Tree House Practice Co-ordinator, said: “For patients, it gives them more access to appointments, particularly when the surgery is closed in the evening and weekends. No more waiting to get through on the phones. For staff, it frees up their time, especially on busy days and less phone calls for them to answer.”

When she started in her role recently, Melanie noticed that the surgery was offering less than the 25% of online appointments required under the current GP contract. She was able to use her previous experience at using online appointments to kick start a digital revolution at the surgery. She was able to get some support and helpful hints from the Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria primary care digital team who have been supporting practices to get more services online via its digital exemplar programme.

Routine GP appointments are available in addition to invite only asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes and health checks. Smear appointments in particular are very popular with female patients as they can book them in advance. 

Melanie said: “it’s early days and it is about educating patients on the new way of working and the feedback has been really positive.

“We are monitoring the appointments carefully to check that patients are booking into the right slots or signing up for blood tests when they are invite only.  We are cancelling any wrong appointments and notifying patients to rebook if they are in the wrong ones. 

“We plan to put all routine appointments online in the future, like invite-only blood tests and blood pressures checks. I would encourage other surgeries to have a go at increasing their own online appointments.

“It is so easy to do and the benefits are huge! I would also encourage you to get your Patient Participation Group on board. Our group have been so helpful in promoting the digital way of working and showing patients how it works. They have been in the surgery regularly talking to people and answering their questions.”

Our Digital Future

Declan Hadley, Digital Lead for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria said: “The way we manage our lives is changing. 86% of households now have internet access, 82% of people go online every day and 72% of adults use a smartphone.

“Our digital strategy, which has been developed with the local community, aims to embrace these changes and provide residents with easy to use solutions to give them more control over their health and care. We are really proud of the great work that the GP practices involved in the Digital Exemplar programme have done to use new ways to engage with local people and to offer them more choice about how to access services.

“We know that digital will not work for everybody. Some people struggle with computers and mobile phones and not everybody has access to the internet. For those who would like to use digital but cannot, our aim will be to find ways to help them get online. As our digital health offer grows we hope people will find it easier and more convenient to use online services, but technology will never replace the care and compassion that comes from our dedicated workforce.”

Find out more about Our Digital Future, the digital health strategy for Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Hear more digital stories like Cath's.