Digital consultations helping people get the right care in the right place.
Patients and clinicians have welcomed the expansion of virtual medical and mental health appointments following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a survey.
The Near Me video system, originally designed to serve rural communities, was scaled up from March to ensure patient and staff safety during the pandemic.
Of 5,400 responses to the survey, 87 per cent of the public backed video consultations while 94 per cent of clinicians favoured a digital first approach.
It comes weeks after the 2020 Programme for Government included a commitment to make Near Me a default option for all healthcare consultations. While face to face appointments will always be an option, video consultations will give patients greater choice, reduce the need for unnecessary travel and ensure the right care, in the right place.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“During this first phase of the pandemic people followed our guidance closely, using their local pharmacy, GP practice, local minor injuries unit or calling NHS 24 when they needed medical and mental health advice and help. While the NHS has remained open during the pandemic, we need people to continue to access the right care in the right place.
“I am pleased patients and clinicians recognise the benefits of the Near Me service which offers people more choice over how they access health and care services and more flexibility in their day to day lives. As we look ahead to winter we will better support people to ensure they have the information they need to get the right care, closer to home.”
The results of the Near Me public engagement can be accessed online.
Developed in 2018, Near Me was initially used in rural and island communities in the north of Scotland where distances can be an issue. The system helps to lower risk of infection, improve access to services, and reduce travel and time off work.
During the pandemic, Near Me received £1.2 million to support more than 7,000 people and 650 GP practices to use the service. Video consultations increased from 336 in the week before the scale‑up to almost 17,000 in the last week of June and will be key to delivering modern health and care services beyond the pandemic.