Summary

Improving access & waiting times, empowering patients & supporting self-care, and making more effective use of new information & communication technologies are major priorities for the NHS. Currently, about 40% of consultations that take place with GPs are for self-limiting conditions that do not require face to face care. Reducing this workload could release GP resources towards activities that achieve greater health gain, such as caring for patients with urgent or long-terms needs.

 

This project will test patients’ expectations and the acceptability and impact of a new internet-based approach to supporting self-assessment and self-care, embedded within mainstream general practice. Patients will be encouraged to self-assess their symptoms using an on-line decision support system accessed via their GP website before making an appointment.

 

The system’s clinical content (questions, advice and information sheets) is based on decision support already widely used in the NHS. Having completed a self-assessment, the system automatically offers advice about the need/timescale within which further care should be sought.

 

We will test this innovation within a 12-month exploratory trial, analysing the use of the system, patient acceptability & safety as well as GP team experiences. This project is being undertaken with a population of students, an optimal group for testing the technical aspects of the intervention & exploring its safety and acceptability. They are likely to present with a broad range of acute needs. Future research will study its applicability & cost effectiveness in more diverse populations and settings.