Video consultations are being rolled out across 20 GP practices in Newham in a drive by local commissioners to improve access to healthcare services.

Patients in the north-east London borough will be able to book video consultations with a GP via the Patient Access application. The functionality will also be added to the NHS app.

The consultations are offered alongside face-to-face, online and telephone consultations, giving patients in Newham more options for how they access healthcare services.

Chris Riley, IT project manager at NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Many people now use video apps like Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp on a daily basis in their personal and work lives.

“It is important that the NHS in Newham is able to keep up with technological advances and offer people access to health care advice using similar technology.”

Balaam Street Surgery in Plaistow, north-east London, now provides between six and 10 video consultation slots a day. Patients who need help using the service are offered support in doing so.

Dr Barry Sullman, clinical lead and a GP, said the technology helped improve access to healthcare services for people who may have trouble dropping in for a face-to-face appointment.

He also explained that it freed up more physical appointment time by allowing healthcare staff to perform quick visual assessments over a video call, often negating the need for patients to come in for a face-to-face appointment.

“Video consultations have been brilliant at giving some of my patients ‘digital legs,’” Dr Sullman said.

“I can now easily see and treat patients who are house bound or have trouble walking, as well as healthy people who find it logistically difficult to make it to the surgery, such as having to take a heavy pram down four flights of stairs.

“I have also been able to see agoraphobic patients, who would not have been able to travel to the surgery. Carers who are often rushing between clients also benefit from this technology as it enables them to ‘meet’ the doctor at a time and place which suits them.

“The technology has been working well and has enabled the quick eyeball assessment as well as a more detailed assessment of visible problems such as skin rashes.”

NHS Newham CCG, which described itself as being “at the forefront of digital primary care in England”, secured funding from NHS England to roll out the technology across the borough.

NHS England hopes to introduce video consultations more widely across the country by 2021 and was a prominent feature of the Long Term Plan.

“We will be sharing our learning and experiences with colleagues across Newham and London and will continue to work with our patients to make their experience of accessing primary care services as easy as possible,” said Dr Sullman.