FURTHER concerns have been raised over an online consultation system introduced in several West Fife GP practices.

Disability Fife chairperson Charles Litster said the scheme brought in was impacting the disabled, infirm and elderly and has written to NHS Fife chief executive Carol Potter expressing his concern.

As reported in the Press last week, Inverkeithing Medical Group launched 'Online Consult' last week as a new way for people to seek help managing their health conditions and Millhill Surgery notified patients that it would start using the system on September 1.

As a result, several patients expressed fears the move would disadvantage elderly people.

"There was no consultation about this change and the new system, in my opinion, is a flawed one," said Mr Litster. "It is my view it does not serve the weakest in society, those that are ill, the elderly, and the disabled, well.

"Additionally, NHS Fife, Inverkeithing Medical Group and Patient Participation Group have not written to the patients about the proposal.

"The best that has been done is that is has been mentioned on Facebook. Just a reminder, not everyone is on the internet. Eighty per cent of my members are not. At least 20 per cent of the population in Dalgety Bay is elderly and of those, about 60 per cent are not computer-literate."

After hearing from concerned constituents, Annabelle Ewing MSP has contacted the Inverkeithing Medical Practice.

“It is important that our health services make the best use that they can of advances in technology which can improve the efficiency and standard of care that they can provide to their patients. But, at the same time, we must ensure that those who – for a variety of reasons – might not have access to that technology, are not left behind," she said.

“So, whereas I welcome the steps made by Inverkeithing Medical Practice to modernise the service they provide to their patients, particularly in the midst of this global pandemic with face-to-face meetings being so problematic, I have asked them to ensure that, alongside these changes, they make every effort possible to accommodate the needs of all their patients.”

Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay councillor Alice McGarry said local residents had also contacted her about the changes.

"The first person that phoned me had a 90-year-old father who was ill and there was no way he could negotiate the system," she said. "Even some computer-savvy people were having difficulties. If people want to use the system, fair enough, but people's first point of call is the number we have known for the last 50 years."

NHS Fife medical director Dr Christopher McKenna told the Press last week: “As General Practice strives to transform and redesign the way its services are prioritised and delivered, a number of practices have successfully introduced online appointment systems.

"This brings with it great benefits to patients in terms of clinical triage for those with the most urgent need as well as signposting patients to the best member of the multi-professional team to deal with their problem.

“Where a patient does not have access to the internet, a telephone option will always be offered.”