Patients will receive treatment for skin problems quicker thanks to the launch of a new service across the Black Country.
The new service, which is one of the largest Teledermatology projects in the NHS, has been launched and aims to triage patients within 24 hours, excluding weekends.
Run by clinicians across the Black Country Provider Collaborative (BCPC) – which consists of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust and Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust – the new Teledermatology service allows patients to book a consultation through their GP and receive feedback from specialists.
Their GP will take images of skin conditions using dermatoscopes attached to a smartphone or tablet, which will be sent to the Dermatology department at their chosen hospital.
A Dermatologist then reviews and responds to the GP, within 24 hours, providing guidance on how to care for the patient and whether further investigation or hospital care is needed.
More than 250 GP practices have signed up for the scheme – covering 1.5 million population across Walsall, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Sandwell.
As of late May 2023, there were already 10 sites live in Walsall Healthcare, and a further 23 in the process of onboarding. At RWT the same scenario is 13 sites live and 34 pending, in Sandwell it’s three and 42 respectively and in Dudley it’s 16 and 19.
James Halpern, Consultant Dermatologist and Clinical Lead for Skin for the BCPC, said: “Since the pandemic we have seen a large increase in the number of skin cancer referrals.
“The new Teledermatology service allows large numbers of referrals to be triaged more quickly and will help us address the backlog. It will allow a single point of access and quicker care, closer to home.
“Instead of waiting for an appointment after seeing your GP, a treatment decision can be made within 24 hours. This will help with scarce clinic capacity.
“We will be providing training to GPs and they will also be provided with the equipment.
“There will also be a super-user for each Trust who can add locums onto the system quickly. We also have a 24-7 support hotline to help us with technology.”
Diane Wake, Senior Responsible Officer for the BCPC, said: “This is one of several impressive initiatives that have been cultivated as a result of the collaboration between the four Trusts and I’m delighted we are now able to offer this service to our patients.
“This is tremendous news for dermatology patients in the Black Country and the wider area who will benefit from improved outcomes as a result of this.”
There are currently 3,800 new Dermatology referrals every month, with the number of two-week wait appointments having doubled.
By launching Teledermatology services in the Black Country, clinicians hope to reduce unnecessary hospital appointments and speed up access to diagnosis and treatments, including two week wait skin cancer referrals.
There will still be capacity for face-to-face appointments if needed.