Following the roll-out of digital appointments for GP surgery’s across Wales, a further £2.8m has been invested to extend the scheme to all of secondary and community care.

A GP using a video call to speak to patients

This includes, Community Nurses, Community Mental Health Teams, Health Visitors and Community Midwives. In Secondary Care includes, outpatients and Diabetes clinics.

This system will enable key services to maintain a visual link with patients, this is especially important in some services delivered in the community, including mental health services.

The expansion of the service will allow people to maintain key medical appointments, whilst maintaining social separation. Offering video consultation will help reduce the spread of the infection of Covid-19 with less people attending hospitals or clinics, reducing the risk of exposure to both patients and clinicians. It will also allow patients in self-isolation to maintain contact with medical professionals.

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething, has also today (12 April) announced £800k of funding to supply carers, care homes and hospice with digital devices to allow them to access medical video consultation services including GP appointments and helping them to contact loved ones during the current lockdown.

The additional funding is being invested to support the existing Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being Programme, which provides devices, training and support to public bodies and third sector organisations working with the most vulnerable people in Wales who are not already online.

The additional funding will allow the programme, delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre, to distribute in the region of 1,000 digital devices to care homes and wards.

Another benefit to the new devices is that people will be able to keep in touch with family and friends. This will help to reduce loneliness and isolation and provide a vital boost to families across Wales.

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

“Digital technology already plays a huge role in delivering health and social care in Wales. The expansion of the video consultation into community care means that more people can access medical services in a safe environment, reducing the risk for both patients and our dedicated health and care professionals.

“I’m pleased to also provide further funding to help support the most vulnerable in our community to access digital appointments, with the added benefit of boosting individual wellbeing to provide virtual access to loved ones. I hope this will also give reassurance to family and friends who are unable to visit.”

Dr David Hepburn, Intensive Care Consultant, ABUHB:

“Our team have used the application for communication with families of critically ill patients. It is a vital tool to allow us to build close relationships and trust with families who are unable to visit and puts a human face on interactions and allows real-time updates. We couldn’t provide the service without it"

Lara Ramsay, Director of Inclusive Communities at the Wales Co-operative Centre said:

“We are all supporting our vulnerable family and friends as best as we can during this current crisis and no doubt many of us are helping them to connect with others through digital technology. It’s really important we equip people who have never been online with the skills to use digital devices safely and with confidence.

“This critical funding from Welsh Government will enable our Digital Communities Wales Programme to provide our key care providers with access to digital devices so that the people in their care can stay connected and access vital health services during this pandemic.”