Patients in Wales have embraced virtual consultations with their GPs and other medics, as the coronavirus pandemic has created a step change in the way people access the NHS.
Across Wales, 139,650 patients have had a virtual consultation through the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service since it was rolled out in response to the pandemic in March 2020, with more than 91 per cent of patients saying they would use the service again and 92 percent rating the experience as “excellent, very good or good”.
Swansea is leading the way in adapting to new ways of accessing the NHS with nearly 10 percent of patients in the Swansea Bay University Health Board area making use of video consultations with their GPs. The second highest was Aneurin Bevan University Health Board at six per cent, closely followed by Cardiff & Vale University Health Board at five percent.
With more than 50 specialities within NHS Wales now able to use the Video Consulting Service, this new way of accessing vital NHS services in Wales has seen patients avoid 558,118 miles and 12,350 hours of travel, not to mention saving 163,977kg of CO2 during the same period.
The video consultations are delivered via a communication platform called ‘Attend Anywhere’ and are quick and easy to set-up through your existing smartphone, tablet or PC and there is no need for installations or downloads. The service is safe and secure and will help patients see a healthcare professional more conveniently, saving time and money. Patients are likely to be offered a video consultation if their GP, nurse or healthcare professional wants more information than a telephone call can provide.
Dr Alka Ahuja, Virtual Consultation Clinical Lead at Technology Enabled Care Cymru which delivers the video consulting service alongside NHS Wales, said: “Video consulting has made a huge difference to patients and health care professionals, ensuring that the NHS could continue to deliver safe and timely care during the pandemic. Feedback from patients and clinicians shows it is convenient, saving travel, money and time and video consulting is here to stay and will be one of the ways that people will continue to receive health care not just now but for the future.”
A recent YouGov survey carried out for the Welsh Government’s ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign also revealed overwhelming public support in Wales for accessing the NHS in new and more convenient ways – even from the comfort of their own sofa – with a third (34 percent) of patients saying they are happy to continue to use virtual appointments even when restrictions are lifted. The survey also revealed that 88 percent of people in Wales agree that it is important that people now access the NHS in different ways. The Welsh Government’s ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign is encouraging people to get to know the different ways they can access the NHS so they can be seen and treated quicker.
While the Welsh Government accelerated the rollout of the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service to help the NHS in tackling Covid-19, the service will continue to be widely available so people can access healthcare in a convenient and timely manner both now and in the future. The service can be used for out-patients appointments, regular therapy sessions, or for other professional advice and support. Video consulting is simple and easy to access and it allows for a carer or a loved one to attend with you.
Whether you’re in the comfort of your own home, at work or at a loved one’s, the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service enables you to access the same high standard of care. However, video consulting won’t be suitable for every appointment, and the NHS is keen to stress that face-to-face appointments are of course still available to anyone who needs urgent care or is unable to access their doctor by video.
It is very important for people with Covid symptoms – no matter how mild – to self-isolate and book a test. And in a limb or life-threatening emergency such as choking, chest pain, blacking out or serious blood loss, always call 999 or go to A&E.