The Suffolk firm helping to ease the pain of booking a doctor’s appointment
A Suffolk-based tech firm that aims to make the process of calling up the local doctor quicker and easier has just secured more than £1m of NHS contracts across the UK to provide cloud telephone services for surgeries.
Although a lot of tech companies are focused on online bookings and apps, eight out of ten patients book their doctors appointments over the phone, according to the latest GP Patient Survey, and a third do not find the process easy.
Surgery Connect, a service provided by the Framlingham-based company X-on, is set up to tackle this problem by providing a system with many more phone lines, and a supporting contact centre that gives patients more chance of avoiding the ‘fastest finger lottery’ of getting through to their local surgery.
The system should help reduce appointment non-attendance, which are said to cost the NHS around £1bn every year.
X-on, which has a turnover this year of £5m, has just secured a contract worth £1m over three years with three NHS commissioning groups to deliver cloud-based telephone services across Worcestershire’s 60-plus GP surgeries.
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X-on has also just been awarded a contract to supply GP Telephony to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the organisation that plans, buys and oversees health services for more than 700,000 people living in Oxfordshire.
The company’s Surgery Connect system will gradually be deployed across approximately 94 GP sites and approximately 3,500 handsets.
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Including the Worcestershire and Oxfordshire contracts, Surgery Connect is now being adopted as standard across six UK clinical commissioning groups covering more than 200 surgeries, with another three coming on-board before the end of the year.
Managing director Paul Bensley, who founded X-on in 2000, explained that his company started off as a hosting telephone company - because there was no such thing as a ‘cloud’ back then. “The plan was to provide a more clever phone services than BT,” he explained. “Over the last ten years, we have refocused our efforts on health markets and the NHS. We are a pioneer of cloud telephony in the UK.”
But although X-on has two surgeries in Essex, and a handful in Norfolk, it might seem strange that there are none as yet in it’s home county of Suffolk.
“Suffolk is behind the times with tech!” said Mr Bensley. “The host system location doesn’t make any difference. But we are focused on making ourselves the default provider of choice, so of course we would like to grow the business in Suffolk too.”
X-on, which currently has 40 staff, has taken on five more in the last month at its base in Framlingham Technology Centre, and is still in the process of recruiting.
Mr Bensley explained that with Surgery Connect, patients are able to manage their own appointments and benefit from more modern forms of seeing their doctor, such as through video consultations. “It allows practices to operate out of normal hours and enables practice managers to allocate resource more effectively to better meet demand. They can be phoned back, and doctors can call back patients to try to establish whether its serious and what needs to be done.”