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Clinician by computer terminal

Thousands of patients have been able to attend their appointments during lockdown without having to leave home, thanks to the growing use of virtual consultations.

The NHS Long Term Plan commits to decreasing face-to-face appointments in order to reduce travel mileage, improve patient care and increase efficiency and capacity of outpatient services.

In addition to switching to telephone appointments, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals were part of the NHS England and NHS Improvement national video consultation pilot which provided access to Attend Anywhere.

Attend Anywhere is an easy-to-use video consultation platform that works over the internet, enabling patients to remain at home or at work for their appointment. At the beginning of March 2020, the Trust was in pilot phase, conducting just a few video consultations per week; by April, there were 38 different clinic areas servicing 25 specialities.

One of the departments which led the trial of video consultations is Musculoskeletal Therapies. Clinical Specialist MSK Physiotherapist, Jamie Parkinson, said: “Attend Anywhere has completely re-defined how we deliver care to our patients. This began as a small pilot to see the effectiveness of video clinics on our patients and staff and has now developed into a region-leading programme putting patient experience at the heart of it.

We see a long-term future for this within our Trust and patients love the idea of reduced travel and childcare needs alongside an appointment that works with their life schedule.

Innovations using Attend Anywhere continue to be developed at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals such as group exercise sessions and a Respiratory video clinic for COVID-19 patients. We are excited for Attend Anywhere to continue to become part of our offering for our patients at their point of need.”

Laura Ellis-Philip, Director of Digital, added: “These unprecedented times have been very challenging for our teams and patients, but they have also presented us with an opportunity to transform our services and be more receptive to patients’ needs. The teams here have whole-heartedly embraced agile ways of working and I’ve been delighted that we have been able to deploy this so quickly and successfully.”

Whilst the Trust has embraced virtual consultations, we continue to run face-to-face consultations where required, and we are reinstating more of these clinics, utilising our Ashford hospital site, and in line with government safety guidelines.