PATIENTS in Southend, Rochford and Castle Point could soon access health services from the comfort of their own homes.

Under plans to modernise primary care services, NHS South East Essex, the health trust for the three areas, says “virtual clinics” could be set up to give out test results via telephone and e-mail.

Russ Platt, director of commissioning and contracting for the trust, said organisations which could supply such services were being sought, along with the views of the public and patients.

He said: “By exploring the idea of results only virtual clinics, NHS South East Essex hopes to save patients valuable time and effort by preventing unnecessary hospital trips.

“Where appropriate, patients will be able to choose a pre-booked telephone consultation with their hospital doctor to receive their test results at a time and place which is convenient to them.

“Telehealth technology uses home monitoring equipment to support and manage patient care.

“Mainly used at present for patients with chronic respiratory conditions, the technology helps patients to monitor their own health using a small handheld device used to measure important readings. The results are then automatically sent through the telephone line to a nurse or doctor who will be able to read those measurements, monitor your progress and take any necessary action.”

Other proposals include reducing the number of operations carried out in hospital and the number of patients referred to hospitals for services such as ophthalmology, cardiology and diabetic clinics. More of these will be community-based and nurse-led.

Mr Platt added: “These have been established in hospitals for a number of years and we’re keen to extend these arrangements to local clinic settings. We’ve recently begun to test these arrangements with people who have heart failure and diabetes.”

For some patients the changes can’t come soon enough.

John Day, 66, of Eagle Way, Shoebury, has suffered from diabetis for 30 years.

He said: “I have been saying this would be a good idea for some time.

“I have to travel to Southend Hospital’s diabetic clinic and because I have to use public transport it takes the best part of a day just to spend five minutes with a doctor.

“If I could get my results via e-mail it would be a great idea.”