This is a guest blog by Derek Walker, Chief Executive, Wales Co-operative Centre and Professor Hamish Laing, Professor of Enhanced innovation, Engagement and Outcomes, Swansea University and Chair of the Digital Inclusion Alliance Wales.
These are worrying times, particularly for people who are vulnerable, in hospital or in care. Many people are facing the prospect of self-isolating or shielding themselves for weeks. It is a situation none of us have faced before.
Thankfully, for many people digital technology can provide some comfort. It means they will still be able to see friends and family, shop for groceries, find health information and participate in activities to keep them occupied.
For 1 in 10 of us however, this is not the case. And for older people, the proportion who are digitally excluded is much higher than that. Many people, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable, will be lonely and isolated. Accessing vital services, such as their GP or hospital specialist, is now a huge challenge.
Thanks to funding from Welsh Government, the Wales Co-operative Centre is proud to be helping to make life a little easier for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We are working with Welsh Government and NHS Wales to assist with the urgent distribution of tablet devices to health and care settings across Wales to help people get connected.
Welsh Government is providing funding to buy more than a thousand new tablets to distribute through this new device loan scheme. It will be delivered as part of the Digital Communities Wales initiative, a programme led by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
There is an urgent demand for tablets to enable people to speak to their GP during this awful pandemic.
The tablet computers will support the NHS Wales video consulting service, which is being rolled out rapidly across the Welsh NHS. This enables people to have health and social care appointments from home or wherever is convenient. It will mean that residents and patients will be able to have remote consultations with their GPs and other healthcare providers, that might otherwise have been difficult or event impossible.
The devices will be sent out to care homes, hospices and ward settings in the coming weeks. An experienced team from Digital Communities Wales will provide remote training and support to key workers on how to use and operate the technology with people in their care.
The distribution of the devices will be agreed in partnership with health boards who know where the devices are needed in their area. We cannot respond directly to requests from people and organisations because at the moment we must prioritise our support to where the need is greatest for health and care reasons. It is a hugely exciting initiative that will enhance the lives of many vulnerable people across the country and help our NHS at this challenging time. We are delighted to be helping to make it happen.