More than 500 tablet devices help care home residents remain connected to GPs during COVID-19

Care home residents in Humber, Coast and Vale have remained connected to GPs during lockdown – after more than 500 tablet devices were supplied to the region’s care homes through a digital programme launched in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The UK government introduced strict lockdown measures in March to try to limit the spread of the virus, including encouraging people to stay at home and only go outside for essential visits such as exercise, food shopping or to collect medicine prescriptions.

Many healthcare services were reconfigured to adhere to these new measures, which meant that most face-to-face appointments were replaced with telephone or online consultations.

To ensure that care home residents could continue to receive care from a GP, digital programme leaders from the Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership worked to provide data-enabled tablets in every care home in Humber, Coast and Vale – an area which includes the cities of Hull and York and large rural areas across East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire.

In total 537 tablet computers were supplied to care homes in Humber, Coast and Vale for online GP consultations, which meant the care and support that GPs would normally provide to residents during care home visits could continue – with residents facing no increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 as the number of people visiting the care homes in person was greatly reduced.

The provision of data enabled tablets in every care home in Humber, Coast and Vale also enabled care home staff to consult with GPs if they had any queries about the health of a resident, and also participate in training webinars.

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.”

As well as enabling GPs to consult with care home residents, in future the tablets could be used in a variety of other ways to help care home residents remain connected to family and friends, as well as be used for other healthcare consultations such as medicine reviews.

Sandra Anderson, Director at the Millings Care Home in the North Yorkshire town of Bedale, said: “From our first try we had a really good experience using the device. Residents were really happy with how it worked and we found it to be a really efficient way to contact healthcare professionals.

“Other members of staff I have spoken to have said that the tablet is easy to use and they have had no issues with using it to connect our residents with GPs and other healthcare professionals.”

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