As a result of the pandemic many services across health and social care have changed how they are delivered and new ones have been developed. In order to offer services as safely as possible people have been offered appointments over the phone or online by video or using an online form.
We also know that the NHS Long Term Plan states that "GP practices and hospital outpatients currently provide around 400 million face-to-face appointments each year. Over the next five years, every patient will have the right to online ‘digital’ GP consultations, and redesigned hospital support will be able to avoid up to a third of outpatient appointments - saving patients 30 million trips to hospital, and saving the NHS over £1 billion a year in new expenditure averted"
Those who contacted us reported a number of advantages, concerns and difficulties around accessing health and social care services remotely.
From what we were told we have drawn up five recommendations for health and social care services in Shropshire:
- Inform the public that phone, video and on-line appointments are being used to triage patients and make sure people receive a face-to-face appointment if it is necessary and with the most appropriate professional, e.g. doctor, nurse, social worker.
- Fully implement the NHS Accessible Information Standard to make sure the communication needs and preferences of all people and their carers (if relevant) are known, recorded, shared across services and acted upon.
- Provide the public with clear information and instructions about how to set up and use the software needed to access video appointments and electronic consultations (e.g. e-Consult, the NHS App). This information should also be available in Easy Read.
- Provide training for professionals about how to manage a phone or video consultation/meeting to make sure people have the opportunity to share any concerns and ask questions.
- Share the Healthwatch England guidance on ‘Getting the most out of the virtual health and care experience’ which gives tips for the public and professionals. That guidance is available here.