AN ONLINE medical advice service has revolutionized GP surgeries across Hampshire, health chiefs say.

The scheme, which gives adults round the clock medical advice via their GP practice’s website has saved more than 500 GP appointments a week, they say.

Patients now often receive help, advice or support more quickly than they would if they waited for an appointment which might not be necessary.

The scheme was first pioneered in the Fareham and Gosport area last year and is now being used by 2,000 patients a week and freeing up time for doctors to see the patients who need their help most.

Now 10 practices in Fareham, five in Southampton and seven in the New Forest are involved in the eConsult scheme, as well as 48 other GP surgeries across the county, with plans to further expand the scheme already under consideration.

Dr Tom Bertram, a senior GP in Titchfield and the pioneer behind the project said: “eConsult is speeding up access to health advice for thousands of patients, freeing up time for GPs to see those people who would most benefit from an appointment, which in turn is reducing patient waiting times and helping the NHS become more efficient.

“It’s good news for patients, good news for the NHS – and a good example of how change can benefit our patients.”

Since the scheme launched, there have been 665,000 visits to eConsult pages, nearly 243,000 eConsult forms have been submitted and an estimated 10,600 GP appointments saved at a time when GP services have never been more stretched across the country.

Typically, Patients who submit a request for GP advice will typically receive a response the following working day, and this could even involve them being offered an appointment. The service offers self-help information, signposting to services, a symptom checker, and an online service to get GP advice for non-urgent health conditions.

Norma Christison, business change manager for South Hampshire Better Local Care, said: “We accept that eConsult will be a bit of a cultural shift for some people – but the convenience of the service will appeal too many as they can avoid some appointments.

“Only one in ten patients who use it are expected to still need to see a GP. That’s a huge saving in terms of GP appointment time and will really improve the service for people living in Hampshire.”