HEALTH: Four in five virtual A&E patients opt for video ahead of telephone consultations

By Richard Chamberlain 

More than 80% of patients using the local Health Board’s virtual A&E service have opted for a video consultation ahead of telephone as the public embraces the benefits of remote virtual emergency care.

The virtual A&E service, which has now seen more than 35,000 patients in total, provides direct video and telephone consultations with an emergency care practitioner, allowing medical assessment, advice and ongoing treatment when necessary, often with the patient never having to visit a physical A&E.

Over the past four months, the service has seen 5,501* patients virtually, with less than one in five opting for a telephone consultation.

Patients who receive video consultations tend to receive faster treatment decisions as clinicians can provide visual assessments as well as speaking to the patient.  

Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute service, highlighted the benefits of taking a video-first approach to care:

“For many patients, a video consultation with an A&E nurse or doctor is more convenient than coming to hospital and in many cases no further treatment is required following the consultation. For our staff, being able to assess someone remotely over video provides multiple benefits. Primarily we can provide a more thorough assessment than by telephone. In most cases we can make a quicker decision on care, which benefits the patient but also improves patient flow through our urgent care pathways.

“We appreciate video consultations are not ideal for all of our patients, which is why we also provide telephone assessments. This means any patient requiring urgent care can take advantage of a remote consultation whether that’s via video or, over the phone.

“We continue to urge any patients who need urgent care advice to avoid physical A&E unless life-threatening, and to consider accessing the virtual A&E service by calling NHS 24 on 111.” 

Virtual A&E, which launched at the height of the pandemic in December 2020, has proven highly successful in providing urgent care to patients across NHSGGC. Overall, more than 24,000 patients have avoided a physical trip to A&E thanks to the work of the Flow Navigation Centre (FNC) team behind the virtual service. Patients usually receive their consultation within one hour of contact, which is faster than waiting in physical A&E.

Patients also receive their consultation from the comfort of home and with the ability of loved ones to attend remotely as well. When patients do require further treatment, for example, an X-ray, the FNC team is able to schedule their appointment which minimises waiting times and reduces pressures on A&E front doors.

What can the virtual A&E treat? 

The virtual A&E service is staffed by a team of expert emergency care practitioners, and the team can treat a whole host of illnesses and injuries including, but not limited to: 

  • Any limb injuries: shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle, foot
  • Minor head injuries
  • Chest injuries and back injuries 
  • Falls 
  • Accidental overdoses 
  • DVT
  • Cellulitis
  • Foreign bodies in the ear, nose, eyes, under the skin
  • Back pain
  • Gynaecology and early pregnancy problems
  • Burns
  • Wounds 
  • Suture (stitches) problems
  • Dressing issues 

You can find out more information about our virtual A&E on the NHSGGC website here: Virtual Accident & Emergency (A&E) – NHSGGC

*Stats from Oct 2022 – January 2023

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