Health Minister says GP video calls key in continuing healthcare services while fighting COVID-19.
All GP practices in Wales can now access a new system, which allows people to have online appointments with their doctor and other healthcare professionals.
Original plans to launch the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service later this year were accelerated by the Welsh Government and software providers TEC Cymru, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
As well as helping people keep to the stay-at-home rules, the new system will allow doctors and nurses who are self-isolating, but willing and able to work, to continue to serve their communities.
Remote consultations will help practices keep frontline staff and their patients safe by reducing the risk of spreading coronavirus as Wales enters the second week of strict stay-at-home rules.
Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething said:
“Innovations such as this enables government to help frontline staff keep people safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. It also means another layer of protection for NHS staff.
“We are changing the way the NHS operates. By offering telephone and video appointments, we can reduce pressure on frontline staff and better support people with information and advice without unnecessary contact. We are now looking at the next phase of this service, which will include rolling this out into places like hospitals.”
Video appointments will be offered if doctors want more information than a telephone call can provide. In these cases, surgeries can provide simple instructions about how people can access the free and easy-to-use technology that will work with their smartphone, tablet or PC.
An initial pilot programme in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area saw 290 GPs across 73 practices receive video conference training. More than 430 video consultations have taken place since its launch on 16 March.
TEC Cymru is training health board staff, who are working with frontline teams throughout Wales.
Mike Ogonovsky, associate director of informatics, at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, said:
“This programme is a demonstration of how we are rolling out tools to support clinicians who have demanded an alternative way to deliver care to their patients. It’s already been deeply rewarding to get such positive feedback from clinicians and patients.”
Healthcare providers who want to access further information and training about the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service should visit digitalhealth.wales/tec-cymru/vc-service.