A NEW digital system is being rolled out in Bury GPs practices to help people access treatment during the coronavirus outbreak.

Patients across the borough will be given access to make online 'visits' to their doctors as well as receive advice and support virtually.

The digital technology has already been made available to more than 75 per cent of Bury patients.

And more practices are set to roll out the technology "soon", health bosses have said.

Doctors have described the move as "transformational" and say it has provided patients with access to advice and appointments quicker than ever before.

Under the new system, patients can request help from their GP by completing a short online form.

This will then be assessed by a practice clinician who can arrange appropriate care ­— such as telephone or video appointments, referral to other services, or guidance on self-care.

Digital technology and emails also make it easier for patients to be signposted to online resources than in face-to-face consultations, GPs say.

While video appointments mean patients can still see and hear their doctors.

The system was first introduced by Tower Family Healthcare which oversees four practices in Bury, Radcliffe, Greenmount and Tottington.

Dr Simon de Vial, a GP and chief executive of Tower Family Healthcare, said: “Before we introduced our online consultations we were experiencing the same issues as most GP practices across the country with capacity and workflow, with patients experiencing telephone queues and delays for routine appointments.”

“This has been the most transformational change to the way we work that I’ve seen in 28 years as a GP," he added.

“Patients are able to send a request online or by phone and receive the right care much quicker than they would have done previously.

“It saves patients time and hassle of waiting in telephone queues and it enables us to treat patients quicker as they have already briefed us on their symptoms online, meaning we can provide more time for patients with complex conditions.

“It is also having benefits for patients who are not online as our telephone lines have been opened up, allowing them to get through to the surgery quicker and easier than before.”

Covid-19 has created many new and unprecedented to the borough's healthcare professionals, who have had to adapt and find new solutions to treating patients amid the pandemic.

The digital-first solution was initially due to be launched in April.

However, the impact of coronavirus and the sudden, urgent need for remote appointments meant the scheme was implements in just 10 days ­— instead of the five week time frame planned.

So far more than 1,500 patients have used the system and the feedback is said to have been "overwhelmingly positive".

Bury NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is now working with Tower Family Healthcare and other partners to roll out the digital technology to other practices.

Dr Sanjay Kotegaonkar, clinical lead for information management and technology at NHS Bury CCG, said: “The COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the need for more digital solutions to allow our patients to access care and support from general practice.

"The feedback we have received from patients, GPs and practice staff has been overwhelmingly positive and has already had vast benefits for patient care and the healthcare system.

"We are committed to supporting practices to implement this new technology and ensure that all patients in Bury are cared for during COVID-19 and beyond.”