Sunderland patients could see doctors use cameras in diagnosis process

The meeting took place this week.
The meeting took place this week.

Doctors could be given cameras to help them treat patients with conditions like acne, eczema or skin cancer.

NHS bosses in Sunderland are considering allowing GPs to take photos of symptoms they think could need a specialist assessment.

It is hoped the proposed system could lead to faster treatment for the most serious conditions.

But the idea met with some resistance some council chiefs at this week’s meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

Coun Barbara McClennan said: “I’m slightly worried we could be taking photos and sending them in for someone to have a look at.

“It doesn’t sound to me like we’re taking it seriously enough.”

A presentation to the panel by bosses from Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group had highlighted pressures on doctors in the city due to high demand for appointments with skin specialists.

As well as dermatology, orthopaedics, which looks at bones and muscles, and rheumatology, which treats arthritis and other joint problems, were among other specialism suffering from a lack of capacity.

But Scott Watson, Sunderland CCG’s director of Contracting and Informatics, reassured councillors the service was safe and already in use elsewhere in England.

“In terms of dermatologists, they’re a really scarce resource,” he said.

“Waiting times for an appointment can be 16 – 18 weeks and this has proved effective in getting the patients that need it a consultant’s opinion quickly.

“About a third of urgent referrals are not suspicious and can be treated relatively quickly by a GP and this will allow us to get an opinion back quickly on what should and shouldn’t be referred.

“We do not utilise technology enough in the NHS and this is seen by consultants as a really good way forward.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service