Check-ups over Skype to be introduced as Camden GPs adapt to ‘challenging finances’
09:28 15 April 2014
Check-ups over Skype and more care in the home are just some of the ways GPs in Camden are trying to adapt patient care to an evermore challenging financial landscape.
The rollout of innovative technology – like video conferencing, data capturing and digital medical records – along with extending treatment out into the community, are being seen as key to combating Camden’s long-standing health problems.
The borough suffers a disproportionately high level of mental health issues and faces challenges with helping patients with complex needs and reducing illnesses resulting from social inequalities.
The new “innovation” vision comes as the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for Camden marks its first anniversary since taking over Primary Care Trusts in April 2013.
The reorganisation was intended to give GPs more control over their budgets and more of a say in what health care services were needed for their patients.
Budgets set for primary health care have, by and large, remained flat in Camden at a time when GPs are reporting longer working hours amidst higher patient demand.
Chairman of Camden CCG, Dr Caz Sayer, who was a GP for 20 years at Adelaide Road Medical Practice, Belsize Park, admitted the group faced a “dwindling financial situation” but that innovation would be key to ensuring care did not suffer.
“There’s no new money for us, but the money we do have is currently in the wrong place,” she said.
“We need to reduce unnecessary wastage, improve efficiency of care and make the most out of what we’ve got.
“The financial situation will get more difficult over the years, but this can be combated by greater innovation.”
New technology is being seen as vital to saving money.
Plans are in place to fit GP surgeries in Camden with video conferencing equipment that will allow patients to have appointments over Skype from the comfort of their own home – something Dr Sayer says is of particular interest to those in the 19 to 40-year-old bracket.
More controversially, digitalisation of medical records is also in the pipeline.
Data protection, especially medical, is an increasing concern for patients as information becomes more easily shareable and vulnerable to leaks or theft.
But Dr Sayer insists residents in Camden will be well protected. “We’re the only CCG to have accredited safe haven status, meaning the data will be secure within our system,” she said. “And it’s all only done with the patients’ consent.
“The roll-out of Skype facilities to our GP practices is also all about extending access to GPs.
“There are certain things that can easily be dealt with over video calls – but it’s important to point out we don’t think it will replace face-to-face consultations.”
As funding for NHS services remains a concern for patients and health staff, how far innovation can take a service already under strain will be the main challenge for the CCG as it goes into its second year.