Video consultations are to be piloted in community pharmacies this month across Wales, the Health Minister has announced.
This follows the successful roll-out of the pilot service across GP practices, hospitals and community services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Video consultations have enabled essential services to continue while protecting patients and NHS employees from increased risk of infection.
The pilot scheme will allow community pharmacy, which has experienced an increase in demand for services throughout the pandemic, to restart services that had to stop because of social distancing restrictions.
Community pharmacies will be able to use the video calls to provide advice for common ailments, emergency contraception services, conduct Discharge Medicines Reviews and give support to people who want to stop smoking.
The service will also be piloted in dental practices and opticians across the country.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said he was pleased to be able to extend the service.
‘Delivering care closer to home through the use of technology has always been a key part of A Healthier Wales, to deliver healthcare away from hospitals to communities, and where possible in people’s homes.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have had to rapidly expand and adapt services. Video consultation has allowed us to overcome the challenges that social distancing brings. The delivery of video consultation has been fast-tracked and is testament to the work of NHS Wales in delivering this service ahead of time to support patients.’
A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Wales said the body ‘strongly supports’ the rollout of a ‘secure user-friendly virtual consultation platform co-designed by pharmacists for use across the entire community pharmacy network’.
They added that the service will ‘[enable] community pharmacists to continue to support patients despite the challenges of social distancing.’
‘This approach builds on the increasing practice of people connecting via the internet rather than in person whilst recognising the need to protect the important personal relationship that patients have with their local community pharmacist to ensure the delivery of consistent advice when given remotely.’
During the lockdown, some pharmacies took it upon themselves to provide video consultations to their patients. The service also gave staff who have been at home self-isolating the opportunity to work remotely.
Earlier this month, Boots pharmacy launched an online cancer consultation service, available to cancer patients wanting advice who are shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last month, Asda Pharmacy at the Stevenage Supercentre in Herefordshire launched free on-demand GP consultations in-store in the hope of reducing the spread of Covid-19 by limiting doctor-patient contact.