Doctors turn to technology to cut pressure on surgery

Picture shows Shelley Casson with patient and Dr Pat Barbour via virtual consultation.
Picture shows Shelley Casson with patient and Dr Pat Barbour via virtual consultation.

Nurses are turning to technology to try to help relieve the pressure on local doctors’ surgeries.

NHS worker Shelley Casson, pictured, is among those in the borough who are pioneering the use of ‘virtual’ GP consultations to ease the pressure on local surgeries as one of Doncaster’s first ‘iNurses’.

Hi-tech Shelley, a practice nurse at The Medical Centre in the town centre, visits elderly and frail patients at home or in care homes armed with an iPad computer.

The computer enables her to keep in eye-to-eye contact with GP colleagues back at the surgery.

She said: “My role is to see patients who are acutely unwell, have chronic long-term health problems or have just had a stay in hospital. The aim is to monitor their health to avoid any deterioration that could result in an emergency admission to hospital.

“If I need some advice on a patient’s condition I simply contact The Medical Centre’s duty doctor by facetime on my iPad and we have a two-way visual conversation.

“The image quality is excellent and the GP can see and talk to both the patient and me.”

Every Tuesday she visits Bentley’s Positive Steps, a social care centre for people who have had a hospital stay but are not quite ready to return home.

When she gets there with her computer she can check on up to 15 patients in a morning, calling the GP for on-screen consultations as necessary.

iNurses are being trialled at GP practices in the South East of Doncaster.

They are being funded by NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group.

Dr Pat Barbour, one of the doctors at The Medical Centre, said: “This technology enables me to see patients in my surgery while Shelley is carrying out community visits.

“It makes me doubly effective as I can break off to talk direct to Shelley if she needs any advice.

“A GP colleague of mine recently carried out a virtual examination of a patient’s finger while he was in surgery and Shelley was with the patient a few miles away.

Following his instructions, Shelley carried out the physical examination and he was able to diagnose the problem as a result of what she relayed back to him.

“We are currently having problems recruiting GPs in Doncaster so we have to be creative in how we use our existing GPs’ time and the iNurse system is proving very effective.”