The vast majority of GP practices in the South East now have the ability to have video consultations with patients, after a programme to introduce the technology was accelerated in response to COVID-19.
As part of the Long Term Plan for the NHS, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Digital First programme was established to make use of technology to provide all patients with access to “digital first primary care”.
The rollout of video consultation in response to coronavirus has allowed patients to easily access advice, support and treatment they need using digital and online tools. This means patients can now book and cancel appointments, have a consultation with a healthcare professional, receive a referral and obtain a prescription.
Melissa Ream, Artificial Intelligence Adviser for Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network and National AHSN, said: “We knew we had to respond to coronavirus rapidly, and very quickly had an understanding of the size of the challenge with how many GP Practices needed support with infrastructure, training, resources and workforce needs, and we were able to address any barriers promptly.
“The number of video appointments has risen each month since the social distancing guidelines across the South East came into effect.
“Bringing many different parts of the NHS together across the region, the NHS has delivered an objective planned for 2021 in just a couple of months.”
Video consultations are just a part of the digital offer available to patients. Patients can also use online consultations to ask questions, report symptoms and upload photos securely online and their GP practice can respond by phone or email or, in some cases, arrange a video consultation if the GP feels it is needed.
Verified baseline data from the beginning of April showed video consultations were available in 86% of GP practices in the South East, while 58% offered online consultations. As of the end of June, 99% had video consultation capability and 91% could offer online consultations.
KSS AHSN has also been working with partners the Design and Learning Centre, Medway Innovation Hub and Kent Integrated Care Alliance to support care homes on their digital journey. This work recognises the importance of care homes within the health and care system and the response to COVID-19, and aims to:
- Improve the quality and increase the number of video of consultations between primary care and care homes.
- Improve the digital skills of staff working at all levels in care homes.
- Increase the number of care homes in Kent using NHSmail.
The partners have created a Connecting People to Improve Care guide, which outlines key ways that care homes can access and use technology to improve communications between residents and health and social care professionals.
Additional work is taking place around Improving Digital Tools in Care Homes: and builds on the KSS AHSN well connected care homes programme which achieved £756,144 in savings with eight care homes, by testing new digital health intervention that aims to enhance the appropriateness of healthcare received by care home residents and the skills of care home staff.