University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust plans to use Skype for video consultations in its outpatient department.

The trust hopes that offering online video appointments will make it easier for patients with busy working hours.

North Staffordshire’s chief executive said in a statement to EHI that the future of outpatient consultations needs to “radically change using new forms of technology”.

“We need to embrace best practice from across the world and ensure our clinicians can get the best out of the technology available,” he said.

“Some patients will adapt to technology better that others, but these methods could suit the under-50s who now have to take time off work to get to appointments. They would see it as a much more sensible way forward to avoid making trips to the hospital.”

A trust spokesperson added that there is no set timescale for implementation “at this stage.”

According to the Telegraph, managers at the trust claim it could reduce outpatient appointments by up to 35% and the proposals also include treating patients via email consultations.

The trust is not the first to introduce Skype consultations to outpatients. In 2012 Newham University Hospital NHS Trust, now part of Barts Health NHS Trust, used Skype appointments for diabetes outpatients in a one year pilot.

After a hugely successful trial, which significantly reduced ‘did not attend rates’ as well as improving clinical outcomes, the consultations became a permanent feature for diabetes patients in the outpatient department.

GPs are also being encouraged to introduce e-consultations to patients as part of the £50m GP Challenge Fund, which aims to extend patient access through services such as extended opening hours and greater use of online services.