During COVID-19 care homes and care providers need to be able to use digital technology to ensure strict social isolation to protect vulnerable residents, patients and staff. These technologies include remote GP consultations, digital ordering of prescriptions and other remote communications with health and care professionals, families and loved ones.
Data from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with BT Openreach shows that 7,000 care homes in England are without adequate internet connections. Only a third of the sector is fully digital, with the remaining two thirds either entirely paper-based or using a mix of paper and digital.
NHSX and NHS Digital have worked with telecommunications companies to publish a series of easily accessible offers to help care homes and care providers get connected to the internet or to upgrade their existing internet connectivity during COVID-19. The offers are here: https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/covid-19-response/social-care/internet-connection-deals-care-homes.
NHS Digital are also providing free NHSmail accounts to care home providers to help them safely share residents’ data and queries with doctors, nurses and GPs involved in their resident’s direct care. It can be accessed from mobile devices as well as desktops and includes collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams.
It is anticipated that better connectivity will have lasting benefits across the care sector. Being better connected will enable care providers to connect patients and residents with other health and care professionals, families and loved ones, reducing the need for face-to-face contact and ensuring good quality care.
Matthew Gould, Chief Executive Officer for NHSX, said: “Being online is crucial to enable access to services, such as video consultations or secure email, and it can allow residents to stay connected to families and friends, which has never been more important than it is now. We know that many in the care sector face challenges with internet connectivity. That’s why NHSX is working with telecom companies to help care providers. This scheme will make it easier for care homes to get internet access, or to improve the service they’ve got.”
NHS Digital’s Programme Director Patrick Clark said: “Good internet connectivity is fast becoming a ‘must-have’ for everyone these days and is proving to be absolutely vital during these particularly challenging times.
“We’re working with the nation’s telecommunications suppliers who have put together a series of exclusive offers that will help care homes obtain cost-effective access to the connectivity packages they deserve.
“NHS Digital has also published some user-friendly guidance to help care home providers choose the package that best suits their needs – both now and in the future.”
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