More than 7000 online appointments have taken place in Powys over the last 12 months through the NHS Wales video consulting service.
The statistics have been unveiled as part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign which is raising awareness of how patients can access their GP, dentist, pharmacist or optician safely through virtual appointments.
Speech therapy patients across Powys have benefited from online support. Tara Louviere-Cowen is a senior specialist speech therapist at Powys Teaching Health Board. She leads the new, local AAC (Alternative an Augmentative Communication) service which started in Powys last August, working with children and adults who cannot use speech as their main way of communicating:
“Virtual consultations help us to assess and support patients. We have offered virtual coaching and support to help problem solve use of their communication systems. Much of what we do is also upskilling others such as teachers, parents and carers.”
“The use of virtual technology, because of Covid, has probably fast-tracked our work with members of the wider team including schools as we have been able to provide bespoke online training. We have had a huge increase in referrals which is fantastic because there is more awareness of the support that is available and we can deliver it to more people who need it.”
Already in Powys, exercise classes now take place online allowing patients to stay in the comfort of their own home and avoid travelling to clinics. Aled Falvey, Professional Head of Physiotherapy at Powys Teaching Heard Board, explains:
“Despite the challenges we have faced, Covid-19 has accelerated our digital progress. We have an online self-referral form, patients are sent assessment questionnaires and exercise videos via email and consultations with a physiotherapist or group exercise sessions are now available via easy to use video technology. Overall, we’re aiming to offer greater choice to patients in the future, wherever they live in Powys.”
“Pulmonary rehabilitation patients can now join an online exercise group, improving access for anyone living in Powys so more people can benefit from this excellent programme and it is hoped that in time waiting lists will be reduced.”
Some one-to-one appointments are also now taking place online. Arthur Gwynn, 63, of Cray near Sennybridge, was sceptical when he was first told that physiotherapy appointments would take place online:
“I’d had discomfort and pain in my shoulder for a number of years but after being diagnosed with a long-term illness, I found the scans and various procedures very difficult to cope with and quite painful.
“The doctor suggested physiotherapy but I was disappointed to learn it would take place online. However, it has been marvellous and very successful. My physiotherapist, Chloe, immediately detected the problem and demonstrated exercises for me to practice. She would check on my progress in each appointment and tweak the exercises.
“Turning out for any appointment – especially in Powys where you have to drive everywhere – was agony during my treatment so it was such a relief to have physiotherapy in the comfort of my own home! It was so convenient. I did not anticipate it being this successful and I'm extremely grateful for the time and help I have been given.”
While the Welsh Government initially 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 that patients can access healthcare in a convenient and timely manner both now and in the future.
Adrian Osborne, Assistant Director at Powys Teaching Health Board said, “The way you access NHS services may have changed but we are still here for you. You are likely to be offered a phone or a video consultation. It is safe and secure and will help you see a healthcare professional more conveniently, saving you time and keeping you safe.”
Virtual consultations are quick and easy to set-up through your existing smartphone, tablet or PC and there is no need for installations or downloads.