Don’t go to hospital – log-in to Skype and find out if you’re ill

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NHS Trust says initiative could reduce outpatients’ appointments by up to 35 per cent  

A hospital in Stoke-on-Trent is to become the first in Europe to offer consultations via Skype.

University of North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust believes it could cut outpatient appointments by up to 35 per cent if the scheme is authorised by regulators.

The hospital has seen a big increase in patient numbers and it is looking at utilising alternative methods of communication such as email to diagnose patients.

It estimates more than 180,000 could be treated via Skype, while businesses would save money by the amount of time staff take off for appointments being cut.

In Bangor, North Wales, Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital is already using the internet video communication service to allow nurses to monitor patients’ dialysis in their homes.

Proponents of remote diagnosis and treatment of medical issues argue that it will not replace face-to-face treatment when a patient requires it.

“Some patients take on technology better than others but these methods could suit in particular the under-50s, who now have to take time off work to get to appointments,” said University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust chief executive Mark Hackett.

“They would see it as a much more sensible way forward to avoid making trips to the hospital.”

“We have to look at trying to harness new forms of technology. For example, we also need to remove paper records and stop having lots of clerks filling in pieces of paper.”

The plan has also won the backing of local health campaigners, providing the service is open to everyone.

“So long as the patient is confident using the system, it sounds superb. But with vastly growing numbers of silver surfers, it must not be restricted to the young,” said pressure group North Staffordshire Healthwatch co-ordinator Ian Syme.

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