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New digital technology fast-tracked to support non-contact consultations in NHS Wales during the coronavirus pandemic, is here to stay, Health Minister, Vaughan Gething has said.

First published:
7 June 2020
Last updated:

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In the last few months the use of technology has been accelerated across Wales, allowing people to continue to access healthcare advice and services from their homes. This includes a national roll-out of video consultations with GP’s, Secondary and Community Care.

The new systems are supporting key services including GPs, Community Nurses, Community Mental Health Teams, Health Visitors, Community Midwives, Outpatients and Diabetes clinics to maintain a visual link with their patients.

Virtual outpatient activity has doubled during the pandemic. There are now over a thousand remote consultations a week across the NHS using the new NHS Wales Video Consultation Service, and over eight thousand consultations since it was launched. 

The Welsh Government has also supported Digital Communities Wales to expand their digital device loan scheme by 1100 devices. They are prioritising the supply to care homes, so residents can continue access to health and wellbeing services.

Feedback from patients who have received virtual care has been very supportive of the system, with 97% of patient’s rating this new way or working as excellent, really good or good. Clinicians using the service agree, with 85% (TEC Cymru) giving an excellent, really good or good rating.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

The new systems in place are not only responding to social distancing measures to protect people now, but will provide long-term benefits for the NHS here in Wales.

We have acted quickly to roll out these services, which are very much a part of our plan for health and care - A Healthier Wales, to provide care closer to home within the community and in people’s homes. 

The technology is allowing clinicians to connect faster with patients and each other. I’m pleased that the feedback from patients and clinicians has been positive, it’s crucial that everyone feels digital technology is there to support them in delivering and receiving care in Wales.

Other digital services supporting COVID response

Modernising Services

  • A programme to modernise Eye care services and referrals is being accelerated to deliver a national platform for managing care.
  • Digital improvements to the management of patients in Critical Care settings will be accelerated through a programme to introduce a new electronic critical care system.
  • An upgrade to the national pathology system has also been accelerated to provide more resilience as demand on the service increases.

Remote working solutions

  • Video consulting for patients - primary care has seen over 5100 consultations held Secondary care - over 3000 consultations held. Community care – 220 care home staff members trained on system by Digital Communities Wales.  
  • Microsoft Teams has now been rolled out across NHS wales; enabling secure and effective collaboration tool between health professionals. The platform allows discussion and collaboration using video, audio, messaging and file sharing across groups and disciplines to help co-ordinate care.
  • GP remote working – supports GPs and key staff to work from home has had well over 1300 users set up.
  • Consultant Connect –Wales is first UK country to offer all NHS primary care clinicians with this technology that enables rapid and direct access to hospital specialists for advice and guidance on managing a patient’s condition.

Devices

  • Digital devices for care homes – work underway to get 1100 devices to care homes to virtual NHS appointments and helping families keep in touch.
  • Digital devices for health boards – over 1000+ devices being supplied to places such as hospitals.

Infrastructure and data sharing

  • Upgraded network bandwidth and infrastructure – to cope with demand and video consultations
  • Medical images now available to view across health board boundaries – recent updates to Wales Clinical Portal means clinicians can access more information about patients and faster, resulting in quicker diagnosis and reduce admin and transportation costs.
  • GP access to clinical portal – to view hospital information such as discharge summaries and clinical letters from any hospital.

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