The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a huge rise in virtual medical consultations across Dorset.

And health bosses say this growth in online appointments is going to continue.

Local GP practices are making more use of online triage via eConsult forms which help ensure patients are directed to the most appropriate care.

Since the start of lockdown eConsult use has more than doubled with nearly 18,000 being completed in June compared to around 5.000 in February.

The main NHS providers in Dorset are also seeing a huge increase in the use of virtual consultations with Attend Anywhere, an online system which allows people to have a secure one-to-one consultation via a video link at a pre-arranged time.

Consultations are accessed via computers, tablets or smartphones through virtual waiting rooms which notify the clinician when the patient has logged on.

In March 2020, 294 virtual consultations took place in Dorset by June this had risen to 2,813 – an increase of 856%. This equates to over 1000 hours of consultation time across waiting rooms used by the three acute hospitals in Dorchester, Poole and Bournemouth.

The system is also used by Dorset HealthCare which has seen more than 6,300 online consultations take place up to the end of March 2020 for services ranging from mental health and learning disabilities to pain management, minor injuries, physiotherapy and sexual health.

Just one area where Attend Anywhere is being used effectively is Paediatrics which hosted 347 consultations in June, accounting for nearly half (47%) of all consultations.

During a three-week period, those patients who undertook an Attend Anywhere consultation were asked for feedback.

Of those who completed the survey 94% said that it was easy or very easy to access the waiting area and join their call.

They also cited less need to travel and being able to have a consultation without taking time off work as benefits.

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