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14 August 2019

Teledermatology service at UH Bristol saves patients hours of travel time for routine appointments

Doctors in Bristol are providing remote assistance for patients with skin problems - saving them hours of travel time and meaning they don't need toDavid DeBerker attend hospital for a routine appointment.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is at the leading edge of teledermatology and now carries out around 4,000 consultations a year through the system.

Teledermatology allows patients to book a consultation about their skin condition with their GP at their local medical practice.

Their GP carries out a normal consultation, taking notes and high quality photographs of their condition. These are all uploaded to a special secure computer system and sent to the dermatology department at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

A dermatologist then reviews and responds to the GP, on average within a day-and-a-half, providing guidance on how to care for the patient and whether further investigation or hospital care is needed.

UH Bristol was one of the first NHS Trusts to use teledermatology and now carries out consultations through the system to patients as far south as Taunton, reducing waiting and travel times for patients.

More than 70% of patients using this system are now seen and managed in their own GP practice without a hospital visit.

UH Bristol's new five year vision for 2025, 'Embracing Change, Proud to Care', highlights how it plans to grow teledermatology as a way of supporting care closer to home.

David de Berker, a consultant dermatologist at UH Bristol (pictured above), said: "We have been developing our teledermatology service for nearly 10 years and it has now become a central part of our way of delivering care to patients. It relies on close collaboration with GPs who are a key part in caring for patients with skin disease, saving patient waits, travel and enabling those without local hospital services to access consultant opinions."

GP Tony Wright, who is based at Polden Medical Practice in Somerset, said: "The teledermatology service is an essential part of dermatology at Polden Medical Practice.

"For patients, there are a number of benefits including that they can get an opinion without having to travel a long journey to hospital. The service at UH Bristol is excellent and provides a quick response, meaning patients can have an appointment close to home with their GP.

"From a doctor's perspective it's also a really valuable service, which is really reassuring and helps GPs to gain education about dermatology from the specialists in Bristol."

Patients have welcomed the service.

Vanessa Wilson Fitzgerald, from Sutton Mallett, said: "I think this is a very good idea because it saves people long journeys to the dermatology department in Bristol.

"It's marvellous as I've been seen quickly and been advised I'll receive a quick result."

Joe Bass, who lives in Edington, added: "It's been an absolutely wonderful service. I was given the results on the day of my appointment and talked it through with the dermatologist and we decided on the best course of treatment. It's been fantastic."

Peter Wall, who lives near Bridgwater, said: "This is such a good idea. It saves me a lot of time as it would take me a good hour or so to get into Bristol, park and get to the appointment and then I'd need to travel around an hour to get home again.

"With the teledermatology service I can get to my local GP in 10 minutes. It's excellent and is certainly the way forward."

GP Tony Wright and Vanessa Wilson Fitzgerald

GP Tony Wright and patient Vanessa Wilson Fitzgerald


Patient Joe BassUntitled Design (16)

Patient Joe Bass                                                                  Patient Peter Wall