GP video appointments help thousands of patients in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire

Thousands of patients in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are now benefiting from video-based appointments, as well as patient care delivered remotely by GPs and other primary care staff, thanks to the combined efforts of NHS organisations across the region.

NHS organisations have worked together to rapidly help more than 1,000 GPs, pharmacists, practice nurses and others working from home because of Covid-19 to connect to NHS systems and patient records.

This has included sourcing supplies of new laptops, which NHS IT experts have quickly built to enable staff working from home to securely link to NHS and GP practice IT systems.

The efforts have involved a range of technical solutions to ensure that GPs and other practice staff can get access to specialist primary care IT systems and the systems within their practices so that video consultations can take place, prescriptions issued and patient records updated confidentially.

This has been a joint effort between NHS England and NHS Improvement, Bath and Northeast Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board and South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit, which provides essential support for local NHS organisations.

Nationally, in response to Covid-19, general practice has moved from carrying out around 90 per cent of consultations as face-to-face appointments to managing more than 85 per cent remotely.

In fact, 95 per cent of practices now have video consultation capability and the remaining few are beginning the process of implementation.

During the first six weeks of the coronavirus crisis, practices across the Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire area have carried out more than 15,000 video consultations.

Dr Michael Marsh, South West Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “This is one of a number of examples across the South West in which NHS organisations have worked closely together to ensure GPs and their colleagues have the technology to provide patient care through video appointments, while also having remote digital access to patient records. 

“We knew early on that asking patients to attend GP practices in person would place them and staff at increased risk.

“GPs often assess by telephone, and then like to see the patient in person, so while this has been a big cultural change, it has been one which both patients and GPs have embraced.”

Steve Mapleston, Associate Director of IT, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board, said: “This has been a huge technical challenge, which we have overcome by bringing together digital experts from a range of organisations, including private sector partners.

“With everyone working together, what has been achieved within a short space of time has been truly remarkable.

“We have also learned a lot and have no intention of stopping any time soon, as there are many more opportunities to use digital innovation to improve health and care for our patients.”