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NHS Wales Video Consulting Service a hit with Cardiff and Vale residents

Video consultations have been a hit with people in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, a review of the NHS Wales Video Consulting (VC) Service has revealed.

Following a successful first phase evaluation of the NHS Wales Video Consulting (VC) Service, the TEC Cymru team have launched the findings from a second phase evaluation of the service.

In direct response to COVID-19, TEC Cymru and partners established the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service (NHS Wales VC Service) which provides safe access to healthcare online. The service is utilised across all health settings in Wales, including pharmacies, prisons, opticians, and dental practices.

Based on data from 22,978 clinician and patient surveys and 178 clinician and patient semi-structured interviews, the Phase 2a evaluation continued to explore the use and value of VC with the addition of measuring the benefits, challenges and sustainability of the service.

Of the 224,450 NHS Wales Video Consulting consultations recorded across Wales between March 2020 and 21st July 2021, 42,813 were provided by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, of which 25,580 were conducted during the first six months of this year alone.

Data specific to the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area included:

  • 84.7% of respondents giving a quality rating of three stars or higher
  • More than 90% confirmed that they would use VC again in future
  • More than 90% of respondents identified VC as delivering each of the following benefits:
  • reduced risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Improved convenience
  • Saved travel and parking

Dr Allan Wardhaugh, Chief Clinical Information Officer at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “Video consultations have had a really significant impact since we introduced them in March 2020, becoming an integral part of how we interface with our patients within a matter of months.

“We have seen them become a popular, convenient option for patients to attend their hospital appointments flexibly, as the findings of the Phase 2a evaluation clearly show.

“Video consultations are something we have long been planning to introduce to offer healthcare sustainably, closer to people’s homes. We know that they don’t suit all circumstances, but our clinicians are still exploring how we can get the best out of them, driving forward a valuable service for as many patients’ groups as possible.

“As video consultations become an increasingly established part of how we deliver services, it’s clear that they have a promising future with the potential to deliver real, wide-ranging benefits for years to come, and as part of implementing our digital strategy I am looking forward to working with colleagues locally and across the NHS in Wales to see where digital technology can take us.” 

The findings reinforce the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign, which encourages people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them through the NHS 111 Wales website.

On the approach to a quarter of a million consultations using the NHS Wales VC Service, the big users across Wales are: Adult Mental Health providing over 34,000 consultations, and Physiotherapy and Speech and Language Therapy clocking in 8,000 consultation each across Wales in 2021.

Other key findings included:

  • the service is well accepted across a wide range of care sectors and specialities, and is clinically suitable for a wide range of patient demographic groups, regardless of health status, age, gender, ethnicity, household income, and place (urban/rural)
  • there is a long-term preference for VC, which tends to be associated with the significant benefits of using VC which clearly outweigh the challenges.

Gemma Johns, TEC Cymru Research & Evaluation Lead said: “TEC Cymru follow a robust phased approach to its Research and Evaluation. We learn more as we move through each phase and utilise each dataset to support local Health Boards to make better informed decisions for their staff and patients.

“In the new Phase 2a evaluation VC report, we have been able to deep dive into patient and clinician experiences and identify how the benefits clearly outweigh the challenges. We have been able to demonstrate how well VC is working for our Welsh patients and clinicians, and also the opportunity to challenge many assumptions on digital exclusion in Wales. The findings in this report seek to support Health Boards and the Welsh Government on future decisions and ways of working in NHS Wales, and the sustainable use of VC moving forward.”

Eluned Morgan, Welsh Government Minister for Health & Social Services said: “This useful evaluation shows promising results on the use of video consultation in healthcare settings. It’s encouraging to see that this service has been highly rated by both patients and clinicians and I hope that it will continue to be used and developed beyond the pandemic to allow wider access to healthcare services in Wales.”