eConsult is an NHS approved third party platform, selected by the NHS HIOW Integrated Commissioning Board, that allows patients to communicate with their surgery. It handles both clinical queries such as headache or cough, as well as administrative queries including fit notes and test results.
Every eConsult is reviewed by a member of your GP team (more on GP Teams and continuity) and assigned to a clinical or administrative team best placed to handle your request. For example, queries about a prescription are handled by our Medicines Team which includes senior pharmacists and prescribers who can conduct detailed medication reviews and adjust doses of medicines. Other examples include symptoms or conditions that our Physiotherapists or Mental Health practitioners are here to support. If they need input from another member of the team or from a GP they will know where to find it.
In other words, by submitting an eConsult you are automatically generating an appointment with the most appropriate clinician or administrator. We respond to eConsults based on clinical priority, with the vast majority of clinical eConsults receiving a response same day or next day – we think that’s a pretty good service. We respond in a variety of ways, including telephone and video consultations as well as text message replies. If it’s clear from your eConsult that an examination is required we will call you to arrange a face to face appointment.
By working in this way we ensure our GPs have sufficient capacity to see the patients that can only be dealt with by a GP.
What’s really important for our patients to know is that we receive a fixed annual government grant to run the partnership. More eConsults does not equal more income! So if our eConsult volume increases by 10 percent we don’t have any more funds to recruit more doctors, it means our clinicians have to work longer hours; and we already work very long days. Overworked clinicians lead to poor decision making, compassion fatigue and burnout – something none of our patients want to see!
So we do expect our patients to use eConsult responsibly, and we do place limits on how it will operate to ensure the safety of our patients and the partnership:
- We expect patients will, whenever appropriate, try to self help and speak to their pharmacist for advice and over the counter medication, before contacting the surgery.
- We will signpost patients to more appropriate services whenever appropriate, such as their pharmacy, local NHS physiotherapy, their optician or dentist.
- We will not limit the number of eConsults that patients can submit per month, but at our discretion where we feel a patient is overusing eConsult we will propose a meeting to discuss how we can better support their care.
- We expect communications via eConsult to be polite and constructive. If your care hasn’t met your expectations tell us, politely, and we will do everything we can to put it right.
- We keep eConsult available throughout the day for the convenience of our patients, however at certain times we will turn it off to ensure continued clinical safety. This includes some but not all Bank Holiday weekends. We will provide as much notice as possible prior to these events, and direct patients to 111 for immediate clinical assessment when eConsult is unavailable.
- Please note that eConsults are not available for children aged six months and younger. Parents should call the partnership to arrange an appointment with a doctor or nurse.
- We will update your contact details based on the information you provide in your eConsult. Please ensure they are correct and let us know if these are only temporary contact details.
We receive thousands of eConsults per month and we are really proud that we can support our patients’ access in this way. We thank you for continuing to use eConsult responsibly so that this important service and our doctors will continue to be here for you when you most need it.