Organisations will also be offered £20,000 to support investment in hardware
The NHS is to offer trusts free use of an online tool for video consultations with patients, as well as money to invest in any necessary hardware.
The NHS Long Term Plan – a 10-year plan for the future of the health service published last year – set out a vision for a system in which patients are routinely offered the choice of virtual GP and hospital outpatient appointments.
A pilot programme in April last year saw 40 providers of outpatient services trial the use of video consultations, according to Nadine Dorries, the minister for patient safety, suicide prevention and mental health.
“In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, NHS England and NHS Improvement are accelerating this work, rapidly scaling up video consultation capability within National Health Service trusts and foundation trusts to reduce the need for physical attendances”, she added.
This acceleration will see all trusts and foundation trusts across England offered free us of a “web-based video consultation platform… [that] works on multiple devices and does not rely on software downloads”.
Outpatient services providers will also receive up to £20,000 each “for the purchasing of hardware to support the delivery of video consultations”, the minister said.
“NHS England and NHS Improvement will provide training and support materials to facilitate rapid deployment of video consulting technology; a nationally assured data protection impact assessment; [and] a telephone support desk for clinicians and patients,” she added.
Although the technology will be made universally available, the decision as to whether or not to conduct consultations remotely will remain “clinically led”.
Dorries was responding to a written parliamentary question from Bridget Phillipson, the Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South.