Since March, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak across the region, KSS AHSN has supported a rapid increase in access to online consultation (OC) and video consultation (VC) within primary care. Between April 2 and May 19, OC availability increased from 281 practices (58%) to 404 practices (83%), whereas VC availability increased from to 418 practices (86%) to 474 practices (98%).

A blended Digital Transformation Team led by Melissa Ream and including Pete Aldridge, Kath Sykes, George Anibaba and Wayne Chang from KSS AHSN , as well as Oxford and Wessex AHSNs, NHSX, and local CSUs was established to support the NHSE/I Digital First Programme in the South East, working alongside local digital teams to deliver transformation at pace in response to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the programme aims to offer a ‘digital first’ option for most, allowing for longer and richer face-to-face consultations with clinicians where patients want or need it by 2023/2024, with early progress anticipated to give patients the right to OC/VC by 2021.

The offer of OC/VC solutions was crucial during the pandemic in reducing face-to-face consultations while maintaining access to services, keeping both the population and the workforce as safe as possible, and enabling clinicians to work from home while self-isolating.

Within a few weeks, the team developed a central tracker to understand the uptake of OC/VC across primary care, and supported local teams with the infrastructure, training, resources and workforce requirements to deliver OC/VC and quickly respond to any barriers during implementation.

As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, local digital teams were required to step up OC/VC solutions in primary care very quickly, with a rapid increase in implementation during the last two weeks of March.

Verified baseline data from the 2nd of April showed OC solutions were accessible in 58% of the practices, and VC solutions were accessible in 83% of the practices across KSS. As of May 19, 86% of the practices had OC capability and 98% of practices had VC capability. Working together the team has largely delivered an objective planned for a year’s time in just seven weeks.

With this success, the team has not stopped to celebrate, but are continuing to support ICS/STPs across the SE and within KSS to optimise the utilisation of OC/VC within primary care and reaching into care homes.

At the same time, they are supporting the development of the longer term strategy for NHSE/I’s Digital First Programme in the South East and are working with local system partners, to support the development of five-year digital roadmaps to deliver digital transformation across the region through and after COVID-19.