GP practices in the West of England are helping to address the challenges presented by COVID-19 by enabling patients to connect with them remotely through online or video consultation.

The move towards greater use of online patient triage and video consultation in General Practice has long been on the cards and in many regions was already underway, but since COVID-19 it has been rapidly accelerated.

During the COVID-19 crisis there is an obvious need to minimise footfall into practices in order to reduce the risk of infection for both staff and patients. The need for self-isolation has also seen many GPs and practice staff needing to work from their home setting. In March 2020 NHS England and Improvement requested that Primary Care move to a ‘Total Triage’ model with all initial patient contact via telephone or online capabilities.

The West of England AHSN has been deploying members of its team to support Practices across our patch to help Primary Care colleagues to implement these digital ways of working. We have joined forces with colleagues in neighbouring AHSNs in Wessex and the South West to ensure full implementation across the entire South West region.

By the end of April, 99% of practices in the West had installed video consultation systems, while 78% had online triage in place.

As well as helping to respond to the pandemic, both clinicians and patients are already experiencing significant benefits from these online systems and you can read about some of these in this recent blog on the AHSN Network website.

But this is only the first part of the story. The move to online consultation is not just about installing the technology and switching it on. Our team is now working with practice staff to help them gain the most from these tools, building skills and capability and examining how online systems might improve patient contact experience and pathways in the future.

Our digital team is also working with our patient safety colleagues in our support for care homes programme across the region. Our focus is on exploring how the use of digital technology can help care home staff and residents during the COVID-19 situation.

This includes how video consultation capabilities in Primary Care can underpin ‘virtual care rounds’, and using tools like MS Teams to support virtual multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings, where a number of different health and care professionals come together to discuss individual patients.

If you work in a care home or a GP Practice and would like to find out more about our support, please email us at

Posted on May 22, 2020

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