New NHS app will provide more care closer to home for people in Powys

The launch of a new NHS app in Wales, Consultant Connect, is set to reduce the need for Powys residents to travel for unnecessary hospital admission and referrals.

The Consultant Connect app has been fast tracked for use in NHS Wales to help the response to COVID-19, and will allow clinicians to access specialist advice far faster than can currently be done. This will provide more clinical options to local primary and community care teams that will benefit patients not just during the COVID-19 outbreak but also in the longer term.

By accessing speedy advice the new app will help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and referrals, and ensure that those needing hospital treatment are managed more effectively.

The core service, being rolled out across Wales, gives local doctors, physician associates, specialist & consultant nurses and other local specialist clinicians access to secondary care providers who can give advice that is appropriate to the patient’s’ needs.

The Powys clinician accesses the service either by dialling a phone number or using the Consultant Connect app. After choosing a specialty from a menu they are connected with a specialist in an average of 25 seconds.

Dr Jeremy Tuck, Assistant Medical Director for Powys Teaching Health Board, said:

“Not only is this app helping to maintain access to essential services during COVID-19, but it also supports the delivery of our health and care strategy for Powys by taking advantage of digital technology to bring more care closer to home.

“Many of our patients will have had the experience of being referred to a hospital specialist for a check up. The rural nature of Powys means that these outpatient appointments may take place in our community hospitals with visiting consultants, or it may require a trip to a neighbouring District General Hospital. Consultant Connect can provide immediate advice and prevent the need for a visit to hospital.

“A health professional in Powys can use Consultant Connect to access a specialist opinion quickly. For example, a consultant in diabetes can provide advice to our diabetes specialist nurses, so that they in turn can provide the best advice and treatment to their patients. It saves time for patients and Powys clinicians, and also reduces the need for travel to hospital.”

Welsh Government Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced the Wales-wide implementation of Consultant Connect last month, saying:

“I am very pleased we are able to start rolling out the Consultant Connect in NHS Wales. This will help to support primary care to determine the right treatment for their patients. Right now it will save crucial time for health care professionals and reduce the amount of hospital visits needed by patients, at a time when our NHS is facing extra pressure. In the long-term the use of this technology is an important part of our plan for the future of health and social care, A Healthier Wales. Making the most of technology is vital to us building a modern health and social care service, in which care is delivered closer to home.”

Dyfi Valley Health was one of the first practices to introduced the Consultant Connect app last month. Dr Sara Bradbury-Willis from Dyfi Valley Health says:

“We are already seeing benefits for our patients. Through this app we are able to contact a hospital consultant quickly, normally within a few seconds. Their specialty knowledge, alongside our primary care expertise and knowledge of the patients medical history, helps us to provide the right care and treatment there and then. This helps us to provide our patients with better treatment, more quickly, with reduced travel. This is particularly important given the important restrictions in place to stop the spread of Coronavirus, and it will continue to help us provide care closer to home in the future.”

12 GP practices in Powys have enrolled in the scheme along with the Out of Hours services provided by Shropdoc. Community teams including physician associates and specialist nurses are also adopting the new clinician-to-clinician technology.

Dr Tuck added:

“This investment from Welsh Government is helping us to deliver our ambitious for a healthy, caring Powys. It has been a real team effort involving local primary and community clinicians, NHS Wales Informatics services, hospital specialists from neighbouring health boards, Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust and our own support services here in the health board. We look forward to rolling out the service to even more clinicians, so that even more patients can benefit.”

More information about the Welsh Government announcement is available from https://gov.wales/new-app-provide-specialist-advice-gps-seconds

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