Following successful trials, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale CCG will be rolling out an online consultation system to help handle high volumes of patient queries more efficiently.

PATCHS will enable patients at the CCG’s 36 practices to contact their GPs from their practice website or smartphone, reducing inbound calls to reception teams. Using the online system patients respond to four text questions, enabling staff to better triage patients.

Trials at three practices revealed that at one surgery, around 90% of patient enquiries related to administrative tasks, which before PATCHS would have been dealt with by GPs. The new service means that patients can be directed to the most appropriate clinician faster, and the admin involved is significantly reduced.

The technology, from Advanced and Spectra Analytics, supports practices to handle hundreds of requests simultaneously, which staff can then prioritise.

Kelly Vines, practice manager and partner at Littleborough Health Centre – who took part in the trial – said: “During the pilots, we have seen a reduction in the number of inbound calls and a decrease in the number of unnecessary appointments. Crucially, it has enabled us to triage patients more effectively and quickly which is a win-win for both practices and patients.”

Advanced has worked with the CCG to help establish a technology solution that is tailored to its needs and feedback has been positive on how user-friendly it is. It is currently working with the CCG in preparation to go live with PATCHS in all 36 practices before the end of August. Currently, it is refining and developing the system based on user feedback, as well as delivering training to staff.

Advanced’s clinical patient management software, Adastra, was rolled out earlier this year as part of the Scottish government’s programme to help hospitals cope with A&E admissions during the Covid pandemic.