Video consultations, which were stepped up across health boards in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s response to the Covid pandemic, have proven to be overwhelmingly popular with patients in the Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) area, with more than 46,000 video consultations taking place over the past 11 months – the second highest number in Wales.
As part of the Welsh Government’s response to COVID-19, TEC Cymru and partners established the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service that provides safe access to healthcare online. The service is utilised across all health settings in Wales, including pharmacies, prisons, opticians, and dental practices.
Across Wales almost a quarter of a million consultations have been held, with the highest number of users in physiotherapy and speech language. Adult mental health provided more than 34,000 video consultations nationwide during this period, and 165 wards were equipped with ‘Attend Anywhere’ technology to ensure patients could experience virtual visits from loved ones.
An evaluation for NHS Wales Video Consulting Service carried out by the TEC Cymru team delved into data from 22,978 clinician and patient surveys and 178 clinician and patient interviews across Wales. The benefits flagged up by patients in Swansea Bay University Health Board as ‘very beneficial’ were ‘saved time and preparations (63.7%) ‘lowered risk of infection’ (80.1%) ‘saved travel and parking’ (77.6%) and ‘saving the environment’ (73.6%). The total number of minutes saved by patients thanks to the no-travel element of video consultation (VC) was 83,204 in the Swansea Bay University Health Board area.
The findings reinforce the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign, which encourages people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them through the NHS 111 Wales website.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “This useful evaluation shows promising results on the use of video consultation in healthcare settings. It’s encouraging to see that this service has been highly rated by both patients and clinicians, and I hope that it will continue to be used and developed beyond the pandemic to allow wider access to healthcare services.”
Gemma Johns, TEC Cymru Research & Evaluation Lead, said: “TEC Cymru follows a robust phased approach to its Research and Evaluation. We learn more as we move through each phase and utilise each dataset to support local Health Boards to make better informed decisions for their staff and patients.
“In the new Phase 2a evaluation VC report, we have been able to deep dive into patient and clinician experiences and identify how the benefits clearly outweigh the challenges. We have been able to demonstrate how well VC is working for our Welsh patients and clinicians, and also the opportunity to challenge many assumptions on digital exclusion in Wales. The findings in this report seek to support Health Boards and the Welsh Government on future decisions and ways of working in NHS Wales, and the sustainable use of VC moving forward.”
Tec Cymru carried out a previous survey which returned similarly positive results among clinicians and users, with this second phase reinforcing the view that the service is well accepted across a wide range of care sectors and specialities and is clinically suitable for a range of patient demographic groups, and that there is a long-term preference for video consultations.
A series of focus groups is being held online for anyone who has used the VC service. More here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/phase-2-data-follow-up-groups-tickets-159459861739