Patients in Banbury could be speaking to their GPs through a Skype-type link as part of pilot schemes to improve primary care in Oxfordshire.
The county has been given £4.9 million to test ideas which could make a difference to patient care and keep people out of hospital.
It will enable the three Oxfordshire GP Federations to test four pilots over the next year, with plans already moving forward to bring the Skype-type links into care and nursing homes and even patients’ homes.
This is part of the neighbourhood access hubs scheme and Banbury will be the first town in the county to try it out.
These hubs will also help patients who need a same-day appointment with a GP or nurse, but can’t get one at their practice. They will be offered an appointment at a local healthcare facility with a GP.
Helen Robins is director of primary care at the Principal Medical Limited (PML) GP Federation, based in Banbury, and is excited about the use of the internet.
She said: “ The links will be easier and better than phone calls and emails as you are face-to-face, which is a much more effective use of time.
“There might be patients who are housebound or those that commute and cannot get to the surgery during the day .”
Once trialled in Banbury the technology will be rolled out across a wider area.
It is estimated an additional 70,000 appointments, consultations or assessments will be offered each year and 1,000 hospital admissions and 3,000 A&E visits will be avoided.
Dr Joe McManners, clinical chair of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We welcome this national recognition of our ambition in Oxfordshire to be at the forefront of developing health services for the benefit of our patients. The funding also provides some much-needed extra resource for primary care.”
Other pilots will be home visiting teams, care navigators, an online project offering email consultations and a local health website. The money came from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.