People in Fleetwood are among the first in the country to have access to revolutionary new video appointments with their GP.

The town’s four doctors’ practices have launched the scheme as part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (PMCF), which has seen £150million of Government funding made available for health service providers to improve patient access to primary care services.

Supported by Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Mountview Surgery, Fleetwood Surgery, Broadway Medical Centre and Belle Vue Surgery have joined forces to deliver the services following a £550,000 investment from the PMCF.

Patients at these practices will very shortly be able to book video consultations with their GP as an alternative to a face-to-face appointment or telephone consultation via the online system already being used by patients to book appointments.

Fleetwood GP Dr Mark Spencer said: “Many people, such as those who are housebound or those who struggle to access their local practice but prefer to be able to see their GP while talking to them, could see this new service as a real lifeline.

“It can also provide a convenient alternative to the potentially time-consuming visit to the doctors’ surgery for people with busy lives and those in full-time employment.

“Along with pilot sites in Sheffield and Stockport, we are the only place in the country currently offering this service so it is very exciting for Fleetwood to be at the forefront of technology that could revolutionise the way people see their doctors in the years to come.”

The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund has seen a number of other improvements launched in the town.

Routine pre-bookable GP appointments have been made available at weekends along with a range of nurse-led services including phlebotomy, NHS Health Checks, cervical smears, diabetes clinics and CHD clinics.

A ‘Pharmacy First’ minor ailments scheme is also being trialled offering patients in Fleetwood access to health advice and treatment from their local pharmacy. The scheme means the patient may not need to wait for an appointment to see their doctor and can choose to go to a pharmacy for advice and treatment.

Other projects being piloted under the Challenge Fund are assisting patients, particularly those in social isolation and living with long-term health problems, to access online services and the use of ‘Florence’, a text-based technology that helps patients with long-term conditions such as COPD, to take more responsibility for their own care.

Dr Tony Naughton, clinical chief officer for Fylde and Wyre CCG, said: “We are extremely proud of our four Fleetwood practices which are leading the way in some areas of modern healthcare.

“The work being done goes hand-in-hand with what the CCG has been doing across the Fylde Coast to revolutionise the way people are looked after.

“Indeed the recent award of Vanguard status for the area has provided us with funds to help us press on with new ways of caring for those most in need in our community and has again placed us at the very forefront of modern healthcare.

“And it is our hope that at least some of the revolutionary pilot schemes taking place in Fleetwood are successfully adopted across not just our area, but the country as a whole.”

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  • The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund

In October 2013, the Prime Minister announced a new £50million Challenge Fund to help improve access to general practice and stimulate innovative ways of providing primary care services. The first wave of 20 pilots was announced in April 2014.

Further funding of £100m for 2015/16 was announced by the Prime Minister on 30 September 2014 for a second wave.

The Government asked NHS England to lead the process of inviting practices to submit innovative bids and overseeing the pilot schemes.

  • NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the organisation responsible for planning and buying health services in the area to meet patients’ needs. This is known as ‘commissioning’.
  • Led by family doctors (GPs), the CCG currently serves a population of 152,000 people across approximately 320 sq km of coast and countryside. The majority live in the urban towns of Fleetwood, Thornton, Poulton-le-Fylde, Kirkham and Lytham St Annes, but a significant proportion live in rural villages.
  • The CCG receives a set amount of money from the government – around £200million in 2014/15 – and is committed to spending this wisely for the benefit of local people.
  • There are many ways to get involved in health service developments, including joining our Influence membership scheme or your practice’s patient participation group.