Over 100,000 patients in Northampton can now book appointments and speak to their GP about their health concerns - by video calling from their smartphone.
A partnership of 10 Northampton GPs has signed up to provide healthcare to patients in the town through Swedish app LIVI.
In a shake-up of the face-to-face doctor-patient relationship, GPs on the scheme can offer medical advice, referrals and prescriptions without ever meeting the patient, and instead assess them over a video link.
A total of 10 Northampton GP surgeries have signed up with LIVI as of August 10, and serve over 100,000 registered patients as part of the Northampton General Practice Alliance (NGPA). They are:
- Weston Favell Health Centre
- Mayfield Surgery
- Abington Medical Centre
- Greenview Surgery
- King Edward Road Surgery
- Leicester Terrace Health Care Centre
- Maple Acces GP Surgery
- The Mounts Medical Centre
- Eleanor Cross Health Care (Delapre Medical Centre)
- Eleanor Cross Health Care (Whitefields Surgery)
The healthcare app hopes to lift pressure on the NHS and local GPs and offer patients an alternative to attending A&E departments just to see a doctor.
It comes as part of a wider remodel to save some £22bn nationally by using apps, monitoring devices and video-link surgeries in what the NHS are calling its Sustainability Transformation Plans.
NHS England statistics suggest one in five patients wait at least 15 days to see their doctor unless they book an early morning emergency appointment.
Daniel Kane, chief executive officer at Northampton General Practice Alliance said: “Digital healthcare can serve as a complementary tool to further reduce pressure on GP surgeries. It can help to bridge the gap for patients that may otherwise struggle to attend physical appointments at practices. The move into digital is making an unprecedented impact on the NHS, and we look forward to seeing the results in Northampton.”
But the rollout of "digital doctor" schemes have been criticised for "alienating" patients, and would exclude less tech-savvy residents.
Meanwhile, in 2018, chairman of the Royal College of GPs Helen Stokes-Lampard said video-line doctors would in fact increase GPs workloads because patients who need a follow-up in the person at the surgery are effectively seen twice for the same issue.
Speaking in response to the LIVI app's rollout in Northampton, Helen said: "Online appointments can offer easy to access and convenient care for some patients. But they won't work for everyone.
"Some patients will have more complex health needs which are far better assessed in person, and many people will not have access to either the technology or the internet speeds required to benefit.
"We don’t want to see is a widening of the ‘digital divide’ in our NHS where healthcare quality or availability is determined by a patient’s access to the latest technology and expensive gadgets.
“We welcome any safe, cost-effective and evidence-based improvements to care pathways."
The LIVI app is available from the Apple Store or Google Play for free and asks users to sign up with personal details and their GP's address.