Virtual appointment support for patients

Patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside are being encouraged to make the most of digital hubs set up to help them access online healthcare.

By David Sedgwick
Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 3:19 pm
Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Community hubs are being set up by the Public Health Team at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council to offer confidential spaces for individuals to access virtual appointments who may not have the technology or do not feel confident in doing it themselves at home.

Since the start of 2021, the Ashington hub has supported 70 outpatient appointments online and the trust is putting arrangements in place to support people from other areas too, including Wooler/Glendale, Belford, Blyth, Longbenton, Meadowell and Wallsend.

Already, 35 per cent of all appointments per month at the trust are via telephone or online.

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Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing midwifery and allied health professionals and executive director of surgery and community at the trust, said: “I’m so pleased we are able to offer this support closer to home for our patients.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have seen a huge shift to online appointments which can be hugely beneficially for both our local residents and our staff. Less footfall in our hospitals also means less opportunities for infections to spread – which will help keep our patients and staff safe.

“But we know not everyone is able to readily access the internet and there are lots of people who struggle to get online. This can be for a number of reasons such as living in an area with poor quality broadband or personal situations which make it difficult.”

According to The Good Things Foundation, nine million people in the UK are unable to use the internet independently and seven million people do not have the internet at home.

Officials say these hubs aim to tackle these inequalities in digital literacy, digital poverty and digital connectivity to improve health outcomes for local populations.

Marion added: “We are now operating at a level where the most appropriate type of appointment can be offered to a patient, and they can be safely seen in the outpatient department when necessary.

"We want to make sure everyone has the ability and the skills to access their healthcare in a way which works for them.”