DOCTORS in Teesside and North Yorkshire are offering an increasing number of video appointments to patients.

Medical staff at James Cook University Hospital and the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, are increasing the number of services using its "attend anywhere" video appointments to offer patients consultations which would not otherwise have been possible.

Patients are allocated an appointment as usual.

They then receive a letter or an email containing a link to enable them to access the secure online platform via their home computer or mobile device.

Services already actively carrying out video appointments include medical psychology, palliative care and neuro-rehabilitation occupational therapy.

Fiona Fletcher, specialist occupational therapist, has used the system to contact patients following their discharge from James Cook and also to see community patients she would otherwise have been unable to visit.

She said: “It has been so useful to see patients’ faces.

“Communication is improved, we can get a much clearer picture of someone’s cognitive ability and we can also actually observe what they are able to do.

“In these times of social distancing it’s great to be able to have some positive contact with patients."

“I'm really hoping we can take this forward after COVID-19 as I can see the benefits for using video calling beyond the current situation.”

Clinics can be hosted from trust offices or remotely if clinicians are working from home.

Chris Ward, nurse consultant for adult palliative care, has completed several video consultations with great success.

“I did an initial assessment with a patient who is being shielded,” she said. “Without Attend Anywhere we would have been limited to a telephone consultation, but talking face to face made such a difference.

“I also was speaking to a patient on the phone about his pain but it was difficult for him to explain exactly where the pain was and also to understand what medication he was taking. When we did the Attend Anywhere video consultation he was able to show me exactly where the pain was and exactly what medication he was taking. It made such a difference.”

The rapid pilot scheme was set up in just three weeks to support the trust’s response to COVID-19 and many more services are expected to get on board over the next few weeks.

“We already have three services live and another 12 are scheduled to be launched,” said Michelle Harrison, ICT business analyst.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from staff and patients about how easy it is to use and how much better it is to be able to see who you are talking to.”