HAVE you ever dreamt of seeing your doctor from the comfort of your own home?

If so, the NHS and its partners are rolling out a new drive aimed at reducing waiting times and improving patient choice. North Cumbria Health and Care, in partnership with Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC) are rolling out a pilot project of video consultations.

Inglewood Residential Home in Wigton, Christian Head Residential Home in Kirkby Stephen, Haverigg Prison in Millom and Bridge House Residential Home in Glenridding are among those to roll out a pilot of the scheme. Dr Deb Lee, who is part of the community-led Working Together Group, has been a key figure in pushing the project forward.

She said: “The pilots have started, some of them have been running for quite some time, some are just beginning. “The reason they are pilots is to make sure that patients are happy using it. We have to look at the financial benefits to the health system in the county.”

It involves patients accessing a website on their device, where they are then greeted by a virtual receptionist - who is actually a real person in a different location - who then checks the patient is who they say they are and connects them to their health professional via video.

Feedback for the idea has so far been positive on the whole. Dr Deb Lee, who is part of the community-led Working Together Group, has been a key figure in pushing the project forward said: “The oncology pilot at West Cumberland Hospital, for example.

"Consultants used to come down to the West Cumberland Hospital from the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle to see patients, but instead of spending two hours driving, they can now see two hours worth of extra patients.

“This will have a big impact on waiting times for patients.”

The rollout has so far been a success, according to the operational lead, David Mansfield. “It is going very well, he explained. We initiated our first pilots in November last year, which was in mental health for psychiatric patient appointments. We are on our 15th/16th clinic.

“The medic is sitting at home in Penrith and is seeing patients remotely in Whitehaven and Workington, which you can imagine has saved him a lot of time and a lot of mileage.

“Six of the eight hubs in northern Cumbria are currently using video consultations for their weekly complex case discussions, which are multi-disciplinary, so in other words they are a combination of health care professionals.

“The GP will want to discuss one of their patients, where there is also input from secondary care or from community services, any other healthcare professional and during that discussion they come up with outcomes and action plans.”

Mr Mansfield reassures patients that their appointments will still be secure.

“It uses real-time web communication, which means you only connect once you’re on your browser, so you have nothing installed on your computer at all, you just go into Google Chrome, click a link and you go into a virtual waiting room.”

“It is all fully encrypted, to the standard of what MI5 and MI6 use for their communication.”

Patients can take part in video appointments on any device with a video camera, but these kind of appointments are only relevant to certain situations, and will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Any patient who wishes to book a traditional appointment can do so, with this only designed to give patients a different option.

The technology has the same standard of security as MI5 and MI6.