When great grandmother Dorothy Flintoft fell seriously ill in the middle of the night at the Friarage Hospital, doctors were keen to get an opinion from a senior clinician.
But rather than wait for the on-call consultant to come in, they set up a webcam link between the patient and team in the hospital’s clinical decision unit directly to his home.
This is telemedicine – the latest development in the Northallerton hospital thanks to investment from Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group.
Consultant in infectious diseases Dr James Dunbar, who was the clinician on-call that evening, believes it is the way forward particularly given the rural area the Friarage Hospital serves.
“My team were unsure what was wrong with Dorothy and were keen to get my advice,” he said.
“She was very unwell so we did a telemedicine consultation, which resulted in her getting a CT scan in the middle of the night that found a problem with her heart. She was transferred urgently to The James Cook University Hospital and successfully treated.”
Dorothy, who lives in Northallerton, added that when she was told she was going to talk to a doctor in the early hours, she did not realise it would be a ‘television consultation!’
“I wasn’t sure what was going on at first but Dr Dunbar put me completely at ease and was very helpful, pleasant and easy to talk to,” she said.
“He asked how I was feeling, asked me questions, talked about my symptoms and made the whole experience as stress-free as possible even though I was very ill.”
Dorothy was diagnosed as having fluid around the heart and subsequently had treatment in Middlesbrough to have it drained.
The 83-year-old added: “I really feel Dr Dunbar saved my life – I was so ill. It’s marvellous technology and great to have this service for patients at the Friarage. Plus all the staff at the hospital were lovely.”
Janet Probert, chief officer of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Dorothy’s story really demonstrates how far technology in health has come. We know that rurality across our area is a challenge, and with the Friarage Hospital being at the heart of our Fit 4 the Future work, telemedicine will continue to be at the forefront.
“As a CCG, we recognise the need to invest in this way so excellent clinicians such as Dr Dunbar can help other patients like Dorothy. It’s a really fantastic story and we hope to hear of many more.”