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Demand management features

We know that some practices are struggling with the number of patient contacts they are receiving, including through eConsult, and want to be able to control the hours in which the consultation element of the service is available to patients.

We're developing a range of features to help support practices with this:

  1. Allowing eConsult consultation service to only be available in hours, between 08:00 and 18:30 Monday to Friday - this feature is available.

  2. Turn off eConsult ad-hoc for the rest of the day (and turn it back on by default the next working day) - this feature is available.

  3. Allow you to set your own start and end time for eConsult availability (e.g. 07:00 - 12:00 on Mondays, 10:00 - 16:00 on Tuesdays, etc) - this feature is not yet live.

Outside of these hours, patients will still be able to access self-help content, but they will not be able to start a consultation questionnaire. If you would like to implement these changes, we recommend that you let your patients know about the change in hours.

Register to get this for your practice

The demand management features are optional and for practices to use as they need. To express an interest in these features please complete the form below.

Overview of how the features work

Once your practice has been enabled the features are easy to use:

  1. Change your consultation hours settings: Using your practice's unique link, anyone in your practice can request a change in consultation hours from the available options. They need to supply their details for audit purposes. This automatically triggers a confirmation email.

  2. Confirmation email: The emails are always sent to the same practice email address that the eConsults are sent to. Our servers send the activation email within seconds, but delivery is dependent on NHS Mail, which is outside our control.

  3. Confirm to instantly update your hours: Someone in the practice needs to click the link in the confirmation email to turn on this change in hours. This change is instantly applied.


Accessing and changing your consultation hours

Note: You must have had the demand management features enabled before trying to use them.

You access your consultation hours settings via a unique link at the bottom of your eConsults, or in your eConsult email; you’ll need to click here to access the setting. This link is unique for your practice so you can bookmark or save it for easy access.

Watch our short demo video (recorded on the 12th August 2021) to find out more:

This is where to access these features from any email sent to the practice alongside a patient's PDF report.

This is where to access these features from the bottom of an eConsult report:

If your practice currently allows patients to access eConsult any time of the day or night, the settings page will look like this - you can see that the hours are specified for each day and in the heading, it says your consultation hours are 'standard':

Here you'll find the access hours options, for example, the below screenshot shows the option to 'Receive consultations only during working hours 08:00 - 18:30'. Tick the required option, fill out your details and click the 'Submit' button to request this change.

This screen will change to confirm that your request has been sent and remind you that this needs to be verified.

The request will be sent to the email address where you normally receive eConsult patient PDF reports. Our servers send the activation email within seconds, but delivery is dependent on NHS Mail, which is outside our control.

You’ll need to verify this request by clicking the 'Activate Request' button within the time frame specified (within 1 hour of the request being made). You will not get a choice of when these new hours start, they will apply from the moment that the request is made and verified.

If the request is not verified within 1 hour then the change will no longer apply and you'd need to request the change again.

Once verified, eConsult submissions will switch to the chosen access hours and the service will display the relevant national redirect message to patients outside of these hours, e.g. to NHS 111 in England (see 'Messaging for patients' section below).

This consultation hours setting screen will change to reflect your new chosen hours. In this example, you can see that the hours are specified for each day, with the weekend marked as 'unavailable'. In the heading, it says your consultation hours are 'working hours'.

You can amend your consultation hours at any time by following the same process again.

Pausing eConsults for the day

If you want to temporarily close access to the consultation element of the service for the rest of the day you can do this.

You'll need to select the option to 'Stop receiving consultations until [date]' button (this updates based on the next working day, e.g. it will usually say 'tomorrow' but on a Friday it will say 'Stop receiving consultations until Monday'). You will need to follow the above steps in terms of requesting and verifying this change.

Once this change has been verified and the 'pause' enabled, you also have the option of 'un-pausing' this, to allow consultations to be restarted and received as normal. To turn your consultations back on, you'll need to select the 'End closure' option and follow the same confirmation and activation process.

Please remember that this feature is optional and therefore you must opt-in to having this in your practice. You can do so by clicking the button below.


Messaging for patients

The messaging shown to patients on your practice's eConsult page will vary depending on the setting you have chosen above. If there are alternative services that patients can be signposted to, these will also appear (and be appropriate based on geographies).

Weekday closure:

Weekend closure:

Temporary closure:

Custom hours:

Please remember that this feature is optional and therefore you must opt-in to having this in your practice. You can do so by clicking the button below.


FAQs

What happens if my practice already closes eConsult at the weekend?

If your practice already switches off eConsult over the weekend but remains available overnight during the week and you would like to keep these hours, we recommend that you do not activate the 'in hours' feature. This feature allows you to restrict patient access to the consultation part of eConsult so that it is only available between 08:00 and 18:30, Monday to Friday.

What happens if I have already set my own eConsult access hours?

If you have already set your own eConsult hours, we recommend that you do not activate the 'in hours' feature. This feature allows you to restrict patient access to the consultation part of eConsult so that it is only available between 08:00 and 18:30, Monday to Friday. If you have already established access hours that differ from these, this feature would override your current hours.

How long will it take for the request to be activated?

This change is self-service, which means the eConsult team does not need to change any of your settings for you. Therefore, the change will be activated as soon as you verify your request. For example, if you action and verify the request by 18:00 on a Tuesday, the eConsult consultation service will stop being accessible for patients from 18:30 on Tuesday (30 minutes later).

Will patients who started an eConsult during working hours be able to finish their eConsult out of hours?

Any in-progress eConsults will be allowed to be completed and submitted to the practice - we don't stop patients if they have already started an eConsult submission during opening hours. Therefore, you may see a small number of eConsults received by the practice after 18:30 - these will be patients who had started their eConsult before the consultation part of the service became unavailable to them.

What happens on Bank Holidays?

Practices who have already asked for eConsult to be turned off during Bank Holidays won't need to do anything - the Bank Holiday will be considered as part of the weekend and as such, the consultation element of the platform would be turned back on the Tuesday morning after a Bank Holiday.


If you have any questions or you feel that this article could be improved, please feel free to give us some feedback by emailing us, pressing the emojis below or using the chat button on the bottom right-hand side of this page to speak to one of the eConsult team.

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