The NHS is partnering with technology firms to help care home residents and patients connect with their loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the work led by NHSX, a new unit driving the digital transformation of health and social care, Facebook will provide up to 2,050 of its Portal video calling devices for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings, including hospices, in-patient learning disability and autism units.
NHSX Digital Transformation Director, Iain O’Neil, said: “Technology companies big and small continue to pledge their resources and expertise to support our NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times.
“We are working hard to find and develop services that meet people’s equally unprecedented needs. Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things – the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are.”
Fifty of the devices have already been deployed to pilot sites in Surrey with Manchester, Newcastle and London and other areas to follow, with support from Accenture.
Additional solutions include enabling health and care staff to work remotely when they may be advised to work at home, improving communication between clinical and care teams, shifting hospital outpatients to virtual appointments, and accelerating the use of online and video consultations within GP and primary care services.
Minister for Care Helen Whately (pictured with Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock) said: “Social distancing is tough on us all, and we must remember how beneficial interaction with loved ones is for our wellbeing. I’m delighted that NHSX is partnering with Facebook to make it easier for those in care homes to keep in touch with friends and family, alongside the ongoing hard work by NHSX to expand communication capabilities across the health and social care sector.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director, National Care Forum and Care Provider Alliance, added: “We are thrilled to see solutions being offered to adult social care providers that can support residents in care homes to communicate with their loved ones remotely during this COVID-19 outbreak, and are very much looking forward to hearing how these Facebook Portal devices are used and what impact they have during this difficult time. This is a fantastic starting point and with other systems offering similar solutions we are sure that communications between care recipients and their loved ones will continue to be a priority that is supported.”