The CEO of a healthtech business which is helping to reduce the NHS waiting list has praised Oxford’s role in its success.

Consultant Connect was founded in January 2015 by Oxford graduate Jonathan Patrick, CEO, with Scott Welpton, CFO and Roger Tweedale, Chief Clinical Engagement Officer.

Its technology enables GPs, nurses, paramedics etc to contact expert NHS consultants for immediate specialist advice via phone or app - and help patients to avoid unnecessary hospital referrals which would otherwise add to the NHS waiting list.

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Consultant Connect, based in St Aldate’s, is now used by over half of the NHS, with its service covering more than 33 million patients.

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Mr Patrick said: “Oxford is one of the most creative commercial centres in the country and we’ve seen first-hand that the city does an amazing job at nurturing and developing new business.”

Mr Patrick and former banker Mr Welpton were running a medical supplies business in the Oxford Centre for Innovation before launching Consultant Connect.

Mr Patrick met Mr Welpton at a medical conference in High Wycombe. He had a detailed understanding of the NHS and suggested creating a service that enabled GPs to quickly get hold of the right expert consultant on the phone.

Mr Patrick said: “Roger told us about a GP who tried to call a consultant in a hospital and spent 20 minutes on the phone battling through a switchboard. And even after 20 minutes, this poor GP didn’t actually get to the consultant, only to the secretary. The GP was complaining bitterly - and this wasn’t an unusual story.”

The trio realised that the service could be vital for the NHS and brought on board Greg Jackson - a former colleague of Jonathan’s at Procter & Gamble, and also co-founder and CEO of Octopus Energy - to advise.

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Mr Jackson introduced them to tech expert James Eddison - another Octopus Energy co-founder - who quickly developed an early version of the tech Consultant Connect needed for its product.

Then the hard work started - speaking to NHS colleagues to ask them to try this new way of delivering healthcare.

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In May 2015, the business secured its first customer, NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). NHS Wirral CCG quickly followed - and then it was a new NHS customer every month.

Mr Patrick said: “We’ve created a very niche communications market. It used to be that if you were a GP and you wanted to get advice from a consultant, you went through the same queue that the public went through. It was a switchboard lottery and most GPs would, understandably, refer the patient to hospital rather than try to get hold of someone. We’ve normalised the idea that GPs should be able to get hold of a specialist in 30 seconds.

“That means they can discuss the issue when their patients are with them. It also means that the service works for urgent cases.”

Consultant Connect continues to have a significant positive impact on the NHS, with two in every three calls made using the service resulting in an unnecessary referral being avoided. Its service has also expanded to offering photo-advice software, which is used by Oxfordshire’s GPs.

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Mr Patrick added: “Our software allows GPs to take medical-grade photos on their smartphones and share those photos with skin specialists.

"The photos are saved automatically to the patient’s GP record and most cases result in the GP getting advice to treat the patient immediately, rather than making them wait months for an appointment.”

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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