An innovative project that used Skype for follow-up outpatient appointments with diabetic patients has been commended by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, in a speech on innovation.

At the speech delivered at the Innovation Expo in London on 13 March, Jeremy Hunt spoke of the importance of innovation and technology to the future of the NHS.

The Newham University Hospital NHS Trust was one of several projects highlighted by Jeremy Hunt, when he spoke of global good practice innovative projects.

He said, ‘Many of the organisations here today offer new ways of using information to improve care. We have great things happening here in the UK too…Newham University Hospital that has reduced missed appointments by 11% through use of Skype for diabetic outpatient appointments.’

The Newham project involved replacing routine follow-up outpatient appointments that didn’t require physical examination with web-based consultations, through Skype. These consultations were offered to all patients attending the transitional and young adult service, and all patients under a consultant in the general diabetes clinic.

The project has had a significant impact on patients with diabetes, particularly those who have difficulty accessing care due to their busy lifestyles or multiple commitments; and those with limited mobility or who are housebound. For staff it encouraged more focused consultations and better use of face-to-face time for clinical activities.

Patients reported that, compared to face-to-face appointments, web consultations saved them time, were far more convenient, cheaper, and they preferred them and therefore would be more likely to attend them. This has had a positive impact on attendance rates, and the number of missed appointments has been significantly reduced.

The Newham project is part of the Health Foundation's 2011 Shine programme. Shine is an annual programme that focuses on a different aspect of health care quality that reflects a key issue facing the UK health service. The 2011 Shine challenge was to find new approaches to delivering health care that reduce the need for acute hospital care while improving quality and saving money.