Coronavirus Lockdown: A virtual NHS

The government recently sent letters to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales asking them to return to work to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, 7,563 clinical staff have applied to come back to work, including 5,633 nurses and midwives, and 1,930 doctors to help support the hero frontline NHS workers caring for Covid-19 patients.

 Despite the current pandemic, health services still need to function as normally as they can so that individuals with health issues and injuries can still be diagnosed and treated, whilst ensuring risks are kept to a minimum for these people seeking medical advice. In response to this, NHS England has advised GP surgeries across the country to start replacing as many face-to-face appointments with remote consultations using methods such as via phone or by video call. But how exactly was this to work at such scale?

 A text from my GP surgery

 Ahead of an upcoming doctor's appointment I had, I was recently notified that the face-to-face appointment had now changed to an over the phone appointment. The instructions were communicated to me via text message and following the appointment, I was referred for some physiotherapy treatment. Given the current circumstances, this was now also unable to be done face-to-face, so instead the physio treatment was carried out virtually, over video. We are now beginning to see all aspects of our lives changing and evolving to virtual environments, not only remote working, but also obtaining medical advice and treatment remotely.

My virtual physio class invite 

Both working from home and virtual medical appointments demonstrate the vital requirement for everyone to have the ability to securely access to data. However, with the NHS continuing to support the nation and saving lives in this difficult time, this is not just a requirement, it is absolutely critical for medical professionals to be able to access their patient data securely from wherever they are.

Although NHS Digital was set up to help transform the NHS through digital technology, not all healthcare workers were not convinced about how critical this was. Dr Jack Aw of Loomer Medical, North Staffordshire CCG states how he has been 'pushing the edge of digital health for a number of years now with little enthusiasm and much scepticism from GP colleagues, but with C19, I really don't think the World, or the NHS will ever be the same again!'. Exponential-e's Working From Home (WFH) solution allowed Dr Jack Aw and his remote medical colleagues to securely connect to the NHS Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and its applications within one hour, demonstrating just how quick and effective remote technologies can be.

Now with the necessity of virtual appointments, there is an appetite for change and digital health is no longer taking a backseat. Coronavirus appears to have been the much-needed catalyst for the adoption of tech across the healthcare system.

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