doctor working on laptop

How 1 in 5 NHS Patients Could Avoid Referral

Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group, Lee Dentith, discusses the importance of emerging healthcare services, such as apps and remote primary care, and how they can save the NHS considerable time and resources.

While the state of our National Health Service remains more under the spotlight than ever before, I recently came across yet another survey detailing some positive news for the NHS and how things can be substantially improved moving forward.

A new report by NHS Elect (a not-for-profit membership organisation that supports NHS trusts) details a recent trial conducted amongst NHS GP practices in Sunderland. The pilot scheme provided a team of on-call consultants to offer advice to GPs over the phone before they refer a patient. GPs called the number, chose a speciality and were connected to the first appropriate consultant on duty.

By the end of the trial period of three months, 96% of practices in the area were using the system, making over nine hundred calls. The trial was an undoubted success, with 22% of patients avoiding an avoidable admission to hospital – a “clear reduction in GP referrals to the local emergency department.”

City Hospital Sunderland said it believed at least 175 patients avoided referral during the trial run – if it was implemented country-wide, it would save the NHS an incredible £424 million. While these results speak for themselves, it does make me wonder just how significant the savings could be if we were to take this sort of service one step further.

This trial highlights to me just how unnecessary a large number of A&E/hospital visits are here in the UK – the A&E unit is something that a lot of patients turn to when they are unable to get an appointment at their local GP surgery or cannot afford to wait over two weeks for one.

I see our app-based services (Dr Now and Now GP) as similar platforms to the aforementioned consultant telephone line – although ours utilise more advanced technologies, they are both designed with the aim of easing the strain on the NHS by avoiding unnecessary usage of its limited resources – we will also have a full 24-hour telephone service live next month for even greater patient convenience. By integrating our services, which connect users to doctors, consultants and other medical professionals, we have the ability to make further significant savings for the NHS by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital visits drastically.

We have been a supplier to the NHS for over two years, processing and dispensing over 100,000 prescriptions. However, as the only digital health provider in Europe with its own pharmacy solution, we have strong ambitions to “close the loop” and offer the NHS a full-service primary care service, allowing patients to see a doctor, get diagnosed and have medicines delivered straight to them. This could result in huge savings for the NHS, in terms of both time and financial resources.

While it’s encouraging to see these kind of telephone consultant systems become more commonplace, I firmly believe that  digital health solutions are needed if we’re going to successfully alleviate the pressures and strains on the National Health Service.


For more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter @LeeDentithDrNow.