NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) supports care homes during COVID-19

NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has invested in more than 200 Samsung tablet devices for care homes in the county, so residents can access virtual appointments with GPs and other clinical staff.

The data-enabled tablets come equipped with the same software that’s enabling doctors to hold increasing numbers of virtual consultations with patients, as practices try and limit face-to-face appointments in response to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

By equipping care homes with this technology, clinical leaders in North Yorkshire hope it will reduce the risk of exposure to the virus for residents, as well as doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

The distribution of the tablet devices is part of a wider scheme across the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership.

Dr Charles Parker, Clinical Chair for NHS North Yorkshire CCG, said: “All 51 GP practices in North Yorkshire are now hosting secure video consultations with patients and it has been a huge success.

“While there will always be occasions when there is no substitute for a face-to-face consultation, this technology is proving to be absolutely suitable for a great many GP appointments and patients have been terrific at adapting to these changes.

“We know that a lot of care home residents are clinically vulnerable, so if we can exploit existing technology to reduce the numbers of visits we need to make to see our patients in care homes, it will help to keep them safe and helps us to manage the risks associated with providing essential care during the Covid-19 pandemic and potentially beyond.”

John Skidmore, Digital Lead for the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic presented the Partnership with the opportunity to use available digital technology rapidly to ensure healthcare services could continue to operate during these unprecedented times, so health and care staff across the Humber, Coast and Vale could still provide the care and support to our populations as they would prior to COVID-19.

“With support to care homes quickly becoming a local and national priority in the COVID-19 response, arrangements were made to provide a data enabled tablet to every care home in Humber, Coast and Vale to ensure GPs could still provide consultations to care home residents. This meant that residents, who are among the most at-risk groups in our communities, could still receive the care and support they would normally from GPs, without an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. We have made a strong start supporting care homes with digital technology and we are working together to provide additional technology in the future to build on the successes to date.”

Sandra Anderson, Registered Manager and Director at The Millings Care Home in Bedale, said: “On our first try we had a really good experience using the device, residents were really happy with how it worked and we found it a really efficient way to contact a healthcare professional. Other members of staff I have spoken to have said that it is easy to use and they have had no issues.”

All 51 GP practices in North Yorkshire are now using the AccuRx video consultation platform. Usage and uptake is high and continues to grow.

Practices are not facing any additional technical requirements to set up appointments with care home residents – it’s simply an extension of what is already offered, where that’s suitable and appropriate.

Technical support for the devices is being provided by F4 IT, a not-for-profit IT service provider based in Grimsby, to help care home staff. Useful links have also been pre-installed on the devices “to provide fingertip access”.

The tablets have been distributed to every qualifying care home by the Nidderdale Plus Community Hub organisation and North Yorkshire County Council.