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£800k to help vulnerable people stay connected to vital services and loved ones during Covid-19 pandemic

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething, has announced £800k of funding to supply care homes, hospital wards and hospices with digital devices to allow people to access medical video consultation services, including GP appointments, and helping them to contact loved ones during the current lockdown.

The additional funding is being invested to support the existing Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being Programme, which provides devices, training and support to public bodies and third sector organisations working with the most vulnerable people in Wales who are not already online.

The investment will allow the programme, delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre, to distribute more than 1,000 digital devices to care homes and wards across Wales. It will also enable the programme’s digital inclusion team to provide remote support and training to key workers on how to use and operate the technology with people in their care.

The distribution of the devices will be directed by health boards who know where the devices are needed in their areas. People and organisations will not be able to make a direct request as the number of devices is limited.

This funding will mean that residents and patients will be able to have remote consultations with their GPs and other healthcare providers. Another benefit to the new devices is that people will be able to keep in touch with family and friends. This will help to reduce loneliness and isolation and provide a vital boost to families across Wales.

The investment comes alongside the announcement of an additional £2.8m funding to extend video consultations to all secondary and community care services. This includes Community Nurses, Community Mental Health Teams, Health Visitors and Community Midwives. In Secondary Care includes, outpatients and Diabetes clinics. This system will enable key services to maintain a visual link with patients, which is especially important in some services delivered in the community, including mental health services. The expansion of the service will allow people to maintain key medical appointments, whilst maintaining social separation.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

“The nation’s physical and mental health is very much at the forefront of our priorities. This investment will allow some of the most vulnerable in our community to be able to continue to have medical appointments without putting them at risk. This money will also help support individual well-being; we can’t underestimate how much virtually connecting to a loved one can make a difference to people’s mental health. We hope this will also provide reassurance to family and friends who are unable to visit.”

The Wales Co-operative Centre has been delivering digital inclusion programmes in Wales since 2005 with the aim of providing people with skills and confidence to get online. Lara Ramsay, Director of Inclusive Communities at the Wales Co-operative Centre said:

“We are all supporting our vulnerable family and friends as best as we can during this current crisis and no doubt many of us are helping them to connect with others through digital technology. It’s really important we equip people who have never been online with the skills to use digital devices safely and with confidence.

“This critical funding from Welsh Government will enable our Digital Communities Wales programme to provide key care providers with access to digital devices so that the people in their care can stay connected and access vital health services during this pandemic.”