Online Consultation (OLC)

A new way to consult your GP: Any time, any place, with smart phone, tablet or computer


An online consultation (OLC) enables you to contact a GP or other health professional over the internet. It can save you waiting for an appointment or going to the GP surgery.

You can tell your GP about your health using a smartphone, tablet or computer. The type of online consultation you have depends on the software choice made by each surgery and how they use it. Many GP surgeries use a questionnaire or an online form. An OLC may be a compulsory way to access services, or left to patient choice. Whitstable will have a patient choice approach, so it adds to access rather than being  barrier.

After your OLC, there will be a response from the practice. It can be an:

  • electronic message
  • telephone call
  • video call (future development)
  • face-to-face appointment

Online consultations also enable you to request things like test results, sick notes and GP letters


Why introduce online consultation?

New consultation types like online consultations (OLC) are one of the top 10 high impact actions identified by the NHS to improve patient access and release GP time. It was included in the GP forward view and NHS Long term plan [1,2] as a way to offer patients better access to appropriate care, something which is known to improve health outcomes and experience.

The NHS is facing increasing pressure from an aging population, limited finance and recruitment problems. Whitstable has not been spared from these problems. OLC as well as improving patient access also introduces efficiencies than can help combat these pressures.


Advantages of online consultation?

An OLC can be completed at any time irrespective of Practice opening hours, from anywhere you have internet access on any type of device.

This gives a greater opportunity for relations or carers to support or submit on behalf of patients. This includes OLCs for children over 6 months of age.

Completing an OLC is not limited like a 10 minute appointment, so no need to feel rushed. Writing about a condition can be easier in writing when sensitive or when language is a barrier.

There is no need to queue or be on hold. A lot of OLCs are managed remotely so you may not even have to come in, saving you time and your practice. This is especially the case for administrative queries.

Appointments that follow an OLC can be more effective as the information you have entered, gives the health professional a useful head start on your condition.


Digital exclusion?

Ways to access GP services should be as equally accessible as possible to avoid advantaging or disadvantaging certain groups. Inequality can already occur with telephone, reception and online booking. This can be from hearing or language issues as well as poor computer literacy. Hearing loops, translation services, and distribution of appointments between online and traditional booking are some of the ways to help.

The introduction of OLC will be accompanied by no change in telephone and reception services or availability of online booking. Patients may choose how they wish to access the practice, so those uncomfortable with technology may elect to continue as before. However, if worried about OLC but keen to take advantage of its benefits, patients will find support available from Patient Coordinators, Local Digital Literacy Groups and a series of engagement events including hands on workshops at surgery locations.

eConsult logo

“eConsult is an online portal to self-help advice, symptom checker and structured templates to manage health and administration issues with your practice” 

Use our eConsult online portal to self-check your symptoms and receive medical advice, Monday to Friday from 8am to 7pm.

Every GP Practice is free to choose the software used but at cost to those who implement it. In this instance the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) has released special funding to make OLC available in every practice throughout East Kent preventing cost from being a barrier.


How will online consulting work?

Begin an OLC via the practice website or from the NHS app.

Select from templates for admin issues, a condition or consulting on behalf of a child. If unsure choose the a general advice template. Questions are structured to mimic a health professional taking your history and change dependant on your answers.

If your condition seems too serious for an OLC then you will be advised how to seek more urgent help. An eConsult can also be used to seek self-care advice for 100’s of conditions.

Help is available in eConsult, via Patient Coordinators, or local Digital Literacy classes and events.

On completing an online form the expected response time is advised and what to do if something goes wrong. OLCs arriving before 1600 will get responses the same day by 1800. OLCs arriving after 1600 will get a response by 1800 the next working day.

Online consultation with eConsult at Whitstable Medical Practice is:

  • Available 24/7 to registered patients
  • Not for emergencies
  • Managed securely by the practice team with access to your full record
  • Developed and regularly reviewed by the provider to give safety assurance
  • Responsive: online consultations received before 1600 get a response the same day. Those received after 1600 will have a response by the end of the next working day.
  • The response can be a:
    • electronic message
    • telephone call
    • video call (future development)
    • face-to-face appointment

This is additional way to contact the practice, telephone and reception services continue but improved with the availability of care navigation by Patient Coordinators

Official start date for Whitstable Medical Practice 01/04/2020.

Published: Mar 9, 2020