Hundreds of local people have been able to continue having hospital appointments thanks to a significant increase in video consultations at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH).
All hospitals in the NHS had to postpone many face-to-face appointments during the coronavirus outbreak, so doctors, nurses and therapists at SASH immediately increased the availability of video clinics to make sure as many people as possible could continue to get expert advice and care for other conditions from the comfort of their own homes.
Before coronavirus, clinicians at East Surrey Hospital, Crawley Hospital and the other SASH services were providing around 10 video consultations per week as one of the first trusts in the country to use a new virtual system. With the system already set up, SASH has been able to rapidly increase this with nearly 500 patients completing a video consultation in a single week in June. On one day alone over 100 video consultations took place as more patients and clinicians continue to take up the offer.
SASH has even launched a virtual hospital reception to welcome patients when they first sign in and provide advice about how the video appointment will work. Relatives can also join consultations remotely to offer more support.
Michael Wilson CBE, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The increased use of video consultations has been invaluable in helping patients continue to get advice from our expert clinicians. We’re now working hard to safely bring back many of the services that were paused during the initial response to coronavirus so more people are able to have face-to-face appointments again, but the success of video consultations means we will continue to use them where it is appropriate for our patients.”
Lynne Gilchrist, who has taken on the role of video receptionist, said: “I’ve been checking patients into their video appointments with various clinicians. I normally speak to patients on the phone, so it was a pleasant change to be able to see their faces. During this unprecedented period of lockdown, it has been important for patients to be able to keep their appointments safely away from the hospital. The paediatric clinic was one of the first clinics and it was lovely to engage with mums and dads together with their children having their medical appointments sitting on the sofa or up at the kitchen table in a very relaxed environment especially for the very small children.”
Dr Avinash Aravamudhan, lead consultant paediatrician, said: “To be able to continue seeing our patients via video link has been fantastic. It doesn’t completely replace face to face appointments, but there is definitely a future for video consultations even after the lockdown has been lifted. It means parents and children can cut down the time they have to take out of employment and school to come to hospital. It has allowed clinicians to interact with children and young people better during the lockdown and also provides parents and carers with more choice and flexibility going forward.”