I was fortunate early in my GP career to join a practice in south London that went on a growth journey – expanding from one practice to 15 sites in a short space of time.
That was when it wasn’t a trendy thing to do. Colleagues asked if we were mad. Now the consolidation of general practice is much more of a ‘thing’ and there are super-partnerships, primary care networks and GP federations.
Back then we got to a certain scale – our practices served 100,000 patients - and thought “so what?”
We believed before we grew further we needed to revise the very model of general practice. The same model had underpinned general practice for generations. If you wanted to see a GP, you attended a physical building and sat in front of a GP – and we made the process of booking to come in difficult. We knew a lot of this process could be managed remotely.
This was the motivation for us to do something with technology. Rather than keep growing and taking on more surgeries we wanted to look at technology to improve general practice. Ultimately, that’s what took me into technology.
This was 10 years ago and a lot has happened since – we have designed a process where we gather the patient’s history before they come in.
We ask the patient questions about what they need through the practice website or the NHS App. We then send that information to the clinician, who can manage the patient, often without bringing them into the building at all.
That is what's behind eConsult – and we've taken it from those original 15 practices to a third of general practices nationwide. We've done something that everyone says is impossible in the NHS: we have scaled.
We've taken our tech platform to do the same thing in different care settings. We're now in hospitals, so in an A&E you can walk in and rather than speak to a triage nurse, you arrive at a bank of iPads and they ask you who you are and why you're there.
We triage you at the device and say, “this patient is really sick and needs to be seen immediately”, or “this one is less sick and can wait.” We can also identify patients who shouldn't be in A&E at all and route them back into general practice early on in their journey.